UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) The defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings have moved into a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Now they have eight games remaining to secure a return trip to the postseason.
Their latest win – a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night – was anything but easy. They controlled the first period and weathered a difficult second.
Then they grabbed their first lead early in the third, only to fall back into a tie moments later. But when Anze Kopitar scored with 4:23 left, Jonathan Quick shut the door on the slumping Islanders, and the Kings had their third straight win on a five-game trip.
Los Angeles jumped one point ahead of Calgary into third place in the Pacific Division, a position that carries a playoff berth.
”We didn’t have the best road record coming in but it doesn’t really matter what happened,” Kopitar said of the Kings, 15-14-7 away from home. ”We are looking ahead.
”We have eight games left, and we have to win a few more to get the spot.”
Kopitar, who had a goal and five assists in his previous three games, got to a deflected puck off a drive by defenseman Andrej Sekera and fired it past Jaroslav Halak for his 16th goal.
”We had some shifts after it was 2-2 that were pretty good momentum shifts until we finally did find a way to score,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter.
Defenseman Alec Martinez had two assists, and Quick made 25 saves in his 400th NHL game. He has won at New Jersey, the New York Rangers, and the Islanders on this trip.
Nick Shore netted his first career goal in his 28th game, and Tyler Toffoli also scored for the Kings.
”It feels good any time you score a goal, but most importantly we came out with a win,” Shore said. ”We are looking to keep it going in Minnesota (on Saturday).”
Quick has won in his 100th, 200th, 300th and 400th NHL games.
Frans Nielsen and Johnny Boychuk had goals, and Halak stopped 34 shots, but the Islanders fell to 2-5-2 in their past nine. New York, 0-5-1 in its past six home games, is struggling to wrap up a spot in the Eastern playoffs.
”We have to pay the price and be better on home ice,” Islanders captain John Tavares said. ”We’re not getting blown out, but we have to be sharper. We have to have a more simple approach.”
Both teams scored during Los Angeles defenseman Matt Greene’s holding penalty taken 1:43 into the third period.
The Kings took their first lead of the night on Toffoli’s 22nd goal – his fifth short-handed – 12 seconds after Greene was sent off. Jeff Carter fired a drive during a 2-on-1 rush that Halak stopped, but Toffoli converted the rebound.
New York forged the second tie of the game when Boychuk ripped a shot from the blue line, with Josh Bailey in front at 3:31.
Nielsen gave New York a 1-0 lead 5:31 into the second period when Travis Hamonic’s clearing pass sent Nikolay Kulemin streaking ahead on an Islanders’ 3-on-1 rush. Kulemin dropped the puck back to Nielsen above the right circle for a hard wrist shot that beat Quick inside the right post for his 13th goal.
It was the Islanders’ fifth shot of the period, compared to only one for Los Angeles.
New York gained even more momentum when it killed a Kings’ 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:34. The Islanders even had the best scoring chance of the advantage when Bailey sprung Nick Leddy right out of the penalty box, but Quick turned him aside on the short-handed breakaway.
That perhaps gave the Kings a lift because just 24 seconds after the teams returned to full strength, Dustin Brown curled with the puck behind the Islanders net, came out into the right circle and snapped a shot that caromed in off Shore’s skate at the top of the crease at 10:37.
New York outshot Los Angeles 16-8 in the second to trail 22-21 entering the third.
The Kings carried much of the play in the scoreless first, but they couldn’t get anything past Halak. Los Angeles held a 14-5 advantage in shots, but its best scoring chance was an attempt by Jordan Nolan that sailed to Halak’s right and struck the left post at 6:20.
The Islanders didn’t put their first puck on Quick until Kyle Okposo’s drive 6:53 into the game.
”We made too many mistakes and turnovers. We have to simplify our game,” Nielsen said. ”I don’t think we’re tight. I don’t think we played badly.”
NOTES: Quick is 10-1-1 in his past 12 road starts. … The Islanders have gone 11 games without allowing a power-play goal, killing 25 straight penalties. … The Kings have won seven of their last 11 at Nassau Coliseum.