LOS ANGELES (AP) — The New York Islanders stumbled into Southern California with a three-game skid and a sputtering offense. After back-to-back victories over two NHL powers, it’s clear the Isles got much more than a tan from their time in the sun.
Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen scored in the shootout, and the Islanders emerged with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
Chad Johnson stopped 28 shots and Brock Nelson scored in the first period for the Islanders, who snapped their slump with an overtime win over NHL-leading Anaheim one night earlier. New York then allowed fewer than two goals for the first time all season while shutting down the defending Stanley Cup champions.
That’s not a bad bit of work in the Southland.
“It’s tough playing back-to-backs,” said Johnson, who turned aside Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter in the shootout. “So for us as a group, it was an awesome effort for us to be able to come in here and be able to get four points here against two really good teams. It’s a good confidence booster for us.”
Okposo and Nielsen put nasty shots past Jonathan Quick, who made 25 saves. The Islanders’ scoring struggles haven’t evaporated, but their penalty-killing and goaltending was good enough to silence two road crowds in two days.
“These are two of the hardest buildings to play in on the road, for sure,” Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said. “And obviously, these are two world-class teams. So it was a gutty effort from our guys in both games.”
New York had lost four straight at Staples Center, but the Islanders’ young core appears to be learning from its past mistakes.
“When you lose three games in a row, then you look at our track record in the past, and it hasn’t been good,” Okposo said. “But in this room, we never panicked. We knew what we had, and we know the way we can play.”
Dwight King scored an early goal for the Kings in their return from a 1-3-1 road trip. Los Angeles had won six straight at home after the longest perfect homestand in franchise history last month.
The Kings saw several positives in their fifth defeat in six games, but realized the champions’ frequently sputtering offense must improve.
“Maybe we took it for granted that they played last night and we didn’t come out hard enough,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We were fully prepared. We should have come out better, and we didn’t.”
Neither team generated much offense after the opening minutes in an occasionally tedious game.
King put Los Angeles ahead 3:49 in when he deflected Mike Richards’ shot from the corner at an awkward angle, the puck trickling past Johnson.
But Los Angeles couldn’t score again in its return from a road trip featuring only nine goals in five games. The Kings lost their first four on the trip before beating Dallas on Tuesday.
“There were some good spots in the game,” King said. “We had a lot of good looks. Guys were moving and creating things, so we can take some positives from it.”
Nelson, who leads the Islanders with seven goals, tied it on a power play late in the first, putting it into a small hole underneath Quick’s glove arm at the post.
The final two periods featured few genuine scoring opportunities, although Quick denied Nelson in the slot on a great chance in the third. Quick then stopped a point-blank attempt by Lubomir Visnovksy in overtime.
Conn Smythe Trophy winner Justin Williams missed his first game for the Kings since the start of the 2011-12 season, sitting out with blurred vision in his right eye after the Stars’ Brendan Dillon clipped him in the face.
Williams had played in 255 consecutive regular-season games for the Kings, winning two of his three Stanley Cup titles along the way. He has scored just one goal in 13 games this season.
NOTES: The Islanders scratched defenseman Brian Strait and forward Cory Conacher. Scoreless center Casey Cizikas returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Anaheim. … New York wraps up its five-game road trip Saturday at Arizona. … Los Angeles hosts Vancouver on Saturday before two Freeway Faceoff games against the Ducks next week.
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