EditorsNote: corrects score in cutline
Eberle’s OT goal lifts Islanders over Kings
NEW YORK — A chaotic final six minutes Saturday night might have snapped the New York Islanders out of a funk — and deepened the one in which the Los Angeles Kings are mired.
Jordan Eberle capped a whirlwind sequence of events late in regulation and overtime Saturday night, when he scored 1:54 into the extra session as the Islanders came back from a two-goal first period deficit to beat the Kings 4-3 at Barclays Center.
The second multi-goal comeback of the season came at an opportune time for the Islanders (18-12-3), whose position in the Eastern Conference playoff race has grown tenuous during a nine-game stretch in which they’ve gone 3-5-1.
“This was a really big win,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said, “We’ve earned a couple losses and we felt like we earned a couple wins (in which) we’ve gotten losses. And you don’t start to second-guess yourself, but people start talking, you start feeling a little tense, you want to make sure the group is feeling confident. This is a huge win for us.”
Confidence, meanwhile, might be in short supply for the Kings (20-10-4), who have been outscored 13-6 in losing the first three contests of a four-game east coast trip. Los Angeles won eight straight games — tied for the second-longest winning streak in franchise history — immediately prior to the skid.
“I just think we’re not a confident group right now,” said Kings center Anze Kopitar, who forced overtime by scoring with 13 seconds left in the third period. “We’re playing more not to lose than we are to win. So we’ve got to turn that around.”
Both teams experienced wild mood swings in the waning minutes Saturday. The Islanders, who fell behind 2-0 in the first period, took their first lead when Anders Lee backhanded home a shot by Ryan Pulock with 3:16 remaining in regulation.
The Kings pulled goaltender Darcy Kuemper with 1:12 left and tied the game when Kopitar poked the puck under the legs of Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss during a frantic scrum in the crease.
Kopitar nearly won the game in the opening seconds of overtime. Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy tried making a backward pass to center John Tavares in the neutral zone, but Tavares slipped and Kopitar raced past him, grabbed the puck at the right faceoff circle and fired a point-blank shot that was deflected by Greiss.
With a grin, Weight said he hoped, as he watched the play unfold, that Greiss would exit the net and challenge Kopitar.
“I didn’t see much for Anze to shoot at, so great save and pressure save,” Weight said. “It’s exactly how I wanted him to play it, now that he made the save.”
The Islanders made their only chance of overtime count. Eberle outraced Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin to a loose puck around center ice and dished behind him to Barzal. While Barzal shuffled the puck for a few steps, Eberle sprinted to the right faceoff circle, where he took a pass from Barzal and fired a shot that sailed over the left shoulder of Kuemper.
“That’s what makes hockey fun, especially when you’re on the winning side,” said Islanders center Josh Bailey, who scored New York’s first goal with 49.3 seconds left in the first period. “(It makes) things a little easier.”
John Tavares scored a power-play goal 4:15 into the third period for the Islanders, who remained tied with the New York Rangers for the two Eastern Conference wild card spots. The New York rivals are only four points behind the first-place Washington Capitals and four points out of the basement in the tightly bunched Metropolitan Division.
Greiss recorded 26 saves.
Oscar Fantenberg and Tyler Toffoli scored in the first period for the Kings, who lead the expansion Vegas Golden Knights by two points in the Pacific Division.
“It (stinks) when you lose that’s the bottom line, so maybe the spirit isn’t what it was when you’re winning games,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “We got some good performances tonight and some performances that need to be better.”
Kuemper made 29 saves for the Kings.
NOTES: The Islanders scratched C Shane Prince (conditioning stint) as well as C Alan Quine and D Dennis Seidenberg. D Johnny Boychuk was active after sitting out an optional practice Friday because of an undisclosed injury. ... Islanders RW Steve Bernier was also active after being recalled from Bridgeport of the AHL on Friday. To make room for Bernier, the Islanders loaned RW Josh Ho-Sang to Bridgeport. ... The Kings scratched C Andy Andreoff, C Jonny Brodzinski and D Kurtis MacDermid. ... The Kings have given up a power-play goal in each of the last five games.