The rules were simple for the New York Islanders going into tonight’s game against the Nashville Predators. If the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators earned more points from their games than the Isles earned from theirs, the Islanders were basically dead in the water. It was a tough ask to begin with, and then Boston won their game. And then Mike Fisher scored for the Predators, putting the Islanders down 1-0. Then Ottawa won their game, meaning the Islanders needed two points tonight. And then... Brock Nelson tied the game off a great wrist shot, and the Isles defenseman-turned-forward for a game, Thomas Hickey, scored the winning goal early into overtime. Hickey’s OT winner keeps the Islanders alive for another day.
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A back and forth first period produced no goals, despite the Islanders registering 13 shots on goal. The Islanders were dominant in possession throughout the game, but about seven minutes into the second period, Mike Fisher put Nashville up 1-0, which we’ve seen deflate the Islanders in the past. However, that was not to be tonight, as the Isles continued to sustain offensive pressure against the Predators. Cody McLeod took a penalty late in the second period, giving the Isles a split-period power play.
It seemed like the Islanders recognized the urgency of this game, shooting more on the power play and overall playing like a team fighting for a playoff spot to the bitter end.
Despite shooting more on the power play, and Josh Ho-Sang continuing to impress with his sharp passing, the man advantage stayed cold as the Isles failed to convert on the chances they generated. Fortunately, shortly after the penalty on McLeod expired, Brock Nelson scored off a wrist shot through pressure, tying the game at 1-1.
Big goal from @Bnelson! #LGI pic.twitter.com/ty7FVAtM8P— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 5, 2017
The Predators surged after Nelson’s goal, sustaining a lot of offensive pressure against the Islanders. Jaroslav Halak made some key saves, including one where the puck just narrowly avoided crossing the goal line. After weathering the storm, the Isles were able to generate some offensive opportunities of their own as time ran down, sending the game to overtime.
Bonus hockey ended quickly though, as Thomas Hickey, known for his overtime heroics, scored a big goal that keeps the Islanders’ playoff hopes alive.
THE OT WINNER!! #LGI pic.twitter.com/WnygzX5jun— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 5, 2017
The Islanders are alive, just barely. The Toronto Maple Leafs currently sit in the second wild card spot, with 93 points in 79 games. The Isles have 88 in 79, as do the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Islanders have a ROW advantage of 36 to Tampa’s 35.
To make the playoffs, the Isles need to win out in regulation, and Toronto would have to earn at most one point in their final three matches. That’d give the Isles 94 points and 39 ROW, and if the Leafs only earn one point in their next three matches, they’d have 94 points and 38 ROW, losing the tiebreaker. The Leafs play the Lightning, the Penguins, and the Columbus Blue Jackets, while the Islanders play the Carolina Hurricanes, the New Jersey Devils, and the Ottawa Senators.
Next, the Islanders head to Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the Hurricanes on Thursday night. The Leafs play on the same night, but the game has a slightly later start time than the Islanders game, meaning that a win against the Canes could still see the Isles’ eliminated. These last few games are going to be insane. Win or it’s early golfing season, boys.