Slim playoff hopes be damned, the Islanders have been playing the kind of hockey needed to reach the postseason over the last few games, even in the absence of captain and superstar John Tavares. I imagine it would have been slightly more helpful had they played this way a week or two before this, but here we are.
They needed a win - and help - to stay alive. They did their own part, but their hopes got dimmer still; at the time of this writing, the Ottawa Senators secured a playoff berth by gaining a point against the Bruins - they would go on to win in the shootout. The Maple Leafs have yet to clinch, and at this moment, they are down 2-1 to the Lightning going into the third period.
They needed a quick start and got it from a fluky goal by Brock Nelson that probably could’ve been challenged for goalie interference but wasn’t.
After killing off an Anders Lee penalty, sustained offensive pressure led to quite a few chances and ultimately a rebound goal by Scott Mayfield, hanging out down low for some reason.
With Victor Rask getting his stick up in the visor of Nelson, the Islanders had a 4:00 power play split between two periods. They didn’t convert in the first half, but they did in the second, with Andrew Ladd sending a shot past Lack off the wing.
They continued to play an evenly matched game to prevent the Hurricanes from scoring again. The Isles and ‘Canes traded penalties throughout both periods, but goals were recorded by either team past the first minute of the second period.
Jaroslav Halak records a shutout
In a do-or-die situation, you need your whole team to play at its best (and a little bit of luck doesn’t hurt). That includes the goaltending, and since Halak was recalled, he has performed brilliantly. He capped that off with a 29-save shutout to do everything he could to keep the Islanders somewhat alive.
If Toronto loses in regulation, the Islanders will be around another day. Their game at 6:00 p.m. in New Jersey might be a meaningful one. Who knows?