The Kings needed an extra step Saturday to stop the speedy Islanders. At the end of a six-game Eastern trip, that appeared to be too much to ask.
The beneficiary of the Kings’ lethargy was Islanders goalie Al Montoya, who recorded a 35-save shutout in his first NHL start since April 9, 2009. The result was the Kings’ first regulation loss since Jan. 20, a span of 11 games during which the Kings went 8-0-3. Another win or shootout loss would have established a team record for the most consecutive games with a point.
The Islanders are 22-30-7, a mere six points out of the Eastern Conference basement. But under the circumstances — playing their second game in as many days and sixth in 10 — the Kings’ loss wasn’t as bad as it seemed on the surface. They fired 35 shots toward Montoya, blocked 14 shots and collected 18 hits (four by Dustin Brown = $200 for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles).
The Kings also surrendered 13 giveaways, and the Islanders were credited with 12 takeaways, which begins to hint at the extra step the New Yorkers had all night. The shots probably weren’t of the quality Terry Murray desired, either, though you couldn’t blame the Kings for firing away when throwing everything at the net might have been their only chance for victory.
Nor are the Islanders, 5-1-0 in their last six games, as much of a pushover as they were to start the season. Former King Matt Moulson scored his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season, burying one from a soft spot 48 feet away in the second period, then spinning to his backhand around Matt Greene in the low slot in the third. Frans Nielson scored his league-leading fifth short-handed goal in the first period. Jonathan Quick finished with 20 saves.
With some relevant teams still on the ice (Anaheim, Phoenix, Dallas, Nashville, Vancouver), the Kings find themselves temporarily stuck at 68 points, tied with three other teams (Anaheim, Dallas, Calgary) on the Western Conference playoff bubble. Technically they’re ahead of the idle Flames, who have played one more game than the Kings.