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Islanders 4, Red Wings 3 (OT): Tavares scores winner, Lee scores 40th in finale

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And Mathew Barzal added yet more to his historic rookie season

NHL: New York Islanders at Montreal Canadiens
Group hug. Nice move. Please don’t leave.
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

John Tavares scored what could be his final goal as a New York Islander by giving them a meaningless win on a fantastic move in overtime.

If this is the end of an era, that was the perfect finish — both for its metaphorical fit, and for it simply being a great move and finish by a great player who has too seldom had enough help during his Islanders career.

Of course, this season he had lots of offensive help, with Anders Lee scoring his 40th tonight and Mathew Barzal entering rare air with an 85-point rookie season — finishing as the team’s leading scorer — after two more assists tonight.

But a team that entered game 82 allowing a league-worst 3.58 goals per game again gave up another three, which is why it took a two-goal third period comeback by the Isles to force overtime and provide some bonus fun in a 4-3 win over the Red Wings.

The comeback and win means the Isles finish the season 10th-worst overall, which evidently ticks off a lot of fans who have been focused strictly on draft lottery odds over the past month. But it’s a lottery for a reason; we won’t know the result, or if some other random not-worst team gets the lucky ball combo, until April 28.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | Corsica | HockeyViz]

Here’s the OT winner, the highlight to finish on if this ends up being the end of #91’s time with the Isles:

Nothing more can really be said about this terrible season that hasn’t already been written, broadcast, podcasted, or shouted at the TV or arena.

So let’s just focus on one highlight that actually bodes well for the future: Anders Lee hit 40 goals, and he did it by continuing to add skill and improve his game. Tonight’s goal was a direct result of that.

A ridiculous, sharp, backhand roof goal while standing in his office in front of the net, it was no fluke: It’s something he’s done a few times this year, something he’s added to his game to make an already uncoverable giant in front of the net all that much harder to handle.

Good for him, the joy he showed on his face for this milestone was well deserved. He’s taken a long route to this point, from a USHL gap year between high school and college, to three seasons in NCAA at Notre Dame, to signing with the team who drafted him (not waiting till later in that summer to “loophole” to free agency), on through the AHL, an NHL playoff scratch, and now legit first-line production.

Cheers to Anders Lee, one of the bright spots on an otherwise completely painful season.

Barzal assisted on the late equalizer by Ryan Pulock, which was Pulock’s 10th goal of the season, bringing Barzal to rare territory among rookies in the 2000s and in Islanders history.

Pulock’s goal, too, was a nice sign for the future: He was set up for the one-timer by Barzal, but it wasn’t the traditional “cannon” one-timer we’re used to seeing. Rather he got low to guide a quick, snap release, which still had a lot of velocity on it despite the lack of wind-up.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing that combo on the power play for many years to come.

And yeah, it’s hard to think optimistically about the future right now. This entire team was a wasted opportunity for the Isles, their shortcomings that were underlying concerns during a hot start just growing and growing throughout the season. Without response.

But the franchise will continue on. We’ll inevitably keep following. At some point, surely(?!), helpful changes will be made. Here at Lighthouse Hockey we’ll just keep trying to track them, assess them, and sometimes even understand them.

Up Next

Exit day is tomorrow. Expect news of various forms, and quotes that probably tick you off. We’ll probably hear things about nagging injuries keeping Casey Cizikas out and turning Cal Clutterbuck into a shell of his previously useful self.

We’ll also hear from free agents on their way out the door, like Jaroslav Halak, probably Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan, and maybe even...there’s some other free agent but his name escapes me at the moment.

Then of course the draft lottery is on April 28. And the playoffs this year are shaping up to be pretty fantastic, which is some comfort to me when the Islanders are not in them.

Thanks to all the readers, commenters, tweeters and especially all the writers here who help entertain us and provide therapy as we feed this odd addiction that is following the New York Islanders. Without you we’d be...shouting at ourselves, I guess.