Concluding a hectic final week of five games in seven days, the New York Islanders rested a litany of regulars for their season finale and got the result you might expect. A 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers means they finish with 100 points, good for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and a first-round playoff date with the Atlantic Division champion Florida Panthers.
The Panthers actually finished with fewer points than the Penguins -- whom the Isles would have faced had they won -- but the NHL's division-leaning playoff setup means they draw the lesser of the two division champs.
In either case, the result probably bothers few (except for many Rangers fans who are apparently outraged they don't get to face Florida or are downright afraid of Pittsburgh). Like their opponent on Sunday -- a makeup date for a rare weather cancellation Jan. 23 in the middle of the season -- they simply wanted to get through it no less healthy than when they began the night.
On that front, mission accomplished.
The Isles actually held a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from de facto second-liners -- by the evening's lineup standard -- Nikolay Kulemin and Matt Martin. But the Flyers scored five unanswered goals, including two in the first period to make the game tied at 2-2 at the first intermission.
Those first two game against Thomas Greiss, who played just the first period (seven saves, nine shots) as part of the Islanders' planned rest and roster management. Christopher Gibson played the final 40 and stopped 15 of 18.
Among the Islanders rested were John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk and Frans Nielsen. The Flyers, who entered the game knowing they'd face the Metro champion Capitals, also rested some key forwards.
Jack Capuano on all that:
"It's a tough game to coach because it's almost like a preseason game. Granted, we were a little bit gunshy with all the injuries we have. We didn't penalty kill the guys that we normally penalty kill. Those are decisions that I made as a coach and we make as a staff and we move forward. There are things in our game that we need to revisit and talk about."
And on preparing for the Panthers:
"It's been such a long week, the 5 in 7. We got prepared in the last two or three days once we found out it was either Pittsburgh or Florida and got all the tape we needed. It was just a matter of time before we knew who we were going to play before we started breaking it down."
And Cal Clutterbuck, on wrapping up the season:
“I feel like we’ve been playing well in these last couple weeks going in here. We had to win some big games coming down the stretch and we did that. I think we’re treading in the right direction. Always confident in our group.”
Find the Islanders' first-round playoff schedule here.