Folks, the New York Islanders remain in control of their own playoff destiny. They got through the theoretically most challenging game of that stretch by dominating their Achilles heel, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were resting some key players and starting their backup goalie, Brian Elliott, coming off an emotional, grueling loss to the New York Rangers the night before.
Both the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins won their games in regulation last night. For the most part, the race hasn’t changed, except that the Isles’ magic number is now five (5), courtesy of clinching the regulation wins tiebreaker over the Penguins and Buffalo Sabres. The Pens need to have more points than the Islanders and Panthers to make it.
Indeed, it is still true that if they win out, they make the playoffs, no matter what else happens. It is also now true that if they went 2-0-1 over their last three games, they would make it no matter what anyone else does because even if Pittsburgh won out, they’d be tied with the Islanders in points (94), but the Isles would have the RW tiebreaker. Five points are all they need, notwithstanding any other results.
And as I noted above, they got the hard game out of the way. Now, games against the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, and Montreal Canadiens won’t be gimmes by any means. They’re looking to play spoiler and earn jobs for next season. But they have to win. They have to play 60 minutes just like they did last night.
I was nervous heading into yesterday’s contest because the Lightning have had our number lately, especially in the regular season. However, they proved they had the necessary fortitude. They need to dig deep and find it again.
About last night:
- I throw around “must-win” too much, but last night was a genuine must-win, and they exploded offensively. [LHH]
- It was “one of their most determined efforts” in the 2022-23 season. [Newsday] They simply needed two points last night, and they got them. [Newsday]
- Brock Nelson, ever the big-game player, recorded three points, all in the second period. His goal was the game-winner, too. [amNY]
- The win keeps them in their wild card spot. [THN]
- They seem to keep playing Tampa in their most important games. But this time, they came through in a big way. [NY Post]
- Both Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock scored, and Samuel Bolduc earned his first NHL assist with a nifty pinch on Nelson’s goal. [3 Takeaways]
- Ilya Sorokin was locked in, finally earning his first win over the Lightning. His play in the final three games may be all they need. [The Athletic]
- Eric Hornick has all the stats we need and a better explanation of the magic number and wild card race. [NYISkinny]
- Stan Fischler! On video! Talking about the game! [THN]
- Pelech dominated last night.
This is what the ice looked like while Pelech was playing for the #Isles in even-strength play. The #GoBolts only registered 2 unblocked shots when he was on the ice, while the #Isles registered 18 unblocked shots, .926 xG, and 3 goals. Fantastic game for Pelech pic.twitter.com/1x5hGeHa7x— Stats By Zach (@StatsByZach) April 7, 2023
- It was First Responders Night at UBS Arena. [Islanders]
- And going forward, for the month of April, there will be a Heineken Plaza Party outside the Yoob before every game. [Islanders]
- Before the game, the prevailing thought was that it was time for the big guns to put some goals on the board. Mission accomplished, I’d say. [amNY]
- Zach Parise loves the stress that comes with the playoff chase. That’s what it’s all about. [NY Po$t]
- It might be fair to call the Engvall-Nelson-Palmieri line the Isles’ first line. And Pierre Engvall’s addition has cemented it. [NY Post]
- Bolduc is getting some on-the-job training in some of the most important minutes of the season. [Newsday]
- It’s becoming a real question as to whether Josh Bailey will be an Islander next season, as he was back in the press box last night. [Newsday]
- Travis Yost examines the Vezina cases for Linus Ullmark and Ilya Sorokin, both of whom have strong resumes. [TSN]
Last night’s NHL scores include the Penguins’ win over the Minnesota Wild and the Panthers’ scoreboard domination of the Ottawa Senators. Also, the New Jersey Devils blew out the Columbus Blue Jackets while the Carolina Hurricanes got shut out by the Nashville Predators. The Devils are one point back of Carolina for the Metro Division title, although Carolina has two games in hand.
- Speak of the Devils, defense prospect Luke Hughes, younger brother of Quinn and future teammate Jack, is ready for the NHL once Michigan’s season is over. And hey! Their season just ended last night. I’m sure he’ll be in Jersey today. [ESPN]
- The Seattle Kraken, in just their second season, are headed to the playoffs after clinching with a win over the Arizona Coyotes. [NHL]