It had to go the distance in an unimpressive shootout, but Brock Nelson’s shootout goal earned the New York Islanders two points tonight against the Florida Panthers. The two points will allow the Isles to control their own home ice destiny on Saturday against the Washington Capitals. Just one point vs. the Capitals will earn the Isles the second seed in the Metropolitan Division, giving the team home ice for the first round of the playoffs for the first time in a very long time.
The first period started up with Mathew Barzal drawing a penalty, with Evgeni Dadonov heading to the box for high sticking. However, the power play continued its trend as the “powerless” play, and the Isles couldn’t get on the board. That didn’t stop them from peppering Panthers goalie Sam Montembeault with shots throughout the period, but nothing could get past the rookie goaltender.
As the period was coming to a close, the Panthers rang a shot off the crossbar and then Dadonov appeared to score right at the buzzer. When the overhead camera was shown to check how much time was left on the clock, it was revealed that the puck never even crossed the goal line, avoiding what would have been an extremely peak Islanders moment.
Under two minutes into the second, Brock Nelson put the Islanders on the board. Adam Pelech and Josh Bailey worked to keep the puck in the offensive zone and Bailey got the puck over to Michael Dal Colle, who made a cross-ice pass to Nelson, who ripped his 25th of the season past Montembeault.
The second Isles power play, earned when Mackenzie Weegar headed to the box for holding, featured more Panthers chances than Islanders’, par for the course with the PP this season. The Islanders successfully killed off their own penalty, but later found themselves shorthanded, with Thomas Hickey heading to the box for hooking. The Panthers boast a lethal power play, but the Islanders killed this too, maintaining their one goal lead.
Devon Toews nearly gave the Islanders a two goal lead after his shot changed directions, but Montembeault’s strong night continued despite the Islanders having the lion’s share of chances on the night.
Mark Psysk took a hooking penalty, but as you can probably guess by now, the Islanders didn’t score. The best chance was for the Panthers’ Jonathan Huberdeau, who hit the crossbar after Ryan Pulock shattered his stick lining up for a shot.
Later, Casey Cizikas appeared to get forward quickly enough to negate an icing call, but the linesman called it, and on the ensuing defensive zone faceoff, Hickey was called for a tripping penalty, putting the Isles back on the penalty kill. Huberdeau got a mini-breakaway during the PP, and on his second attempt in alone on Greiss, he made no mistake, tying the game.
The Islanders had some good looks in overtime, but Montembeault really did play a fantastic game, turning away 35 of 36 of the Islanders’ total shots. Jordan Eberle had the best chance of the overtime frame, hitting his shot off the post.
Onto the shootout, where Eberle, Barzal, Bailey all missed their attempts for the Islanders, and Huberdeau, Barkov, Vatrano, and Trocheck missing theirs. It was Brock Nelson, the fourth and final shooter for the Islanders, who put the puck past Montembeault for the second time tonight, earning the Islanders a huge two points.
Next, the Islanders will head to the nation’s capital to play the Capitals, who just clinched the Metropolitan Division with their win against the Montreal Canadiens tonight. However, the Isles will have something very important on the line: an opportunity to earn home ice for the playoffs. At the start of this season, did you think that the Isles could be playing for home ice advantage in the last game of the regular season? As said above, just one point against the Caps will do it. Let’s get it done.