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Islanders stay alive after sweeping back-to-back set

April 4, 2024, 12:31 AM ET [148 Comments]
Ben Shelley
New York Islanders Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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It wasn’t all pretty, but the New York Islanders managed to sweep their back-to-back set to stay in the East playoff race, taking down the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime on Monday, before beating the Chicago Blackhawks at home last night.

With the Flyers being one of a couple teams the Islanders are battling with to get into the playoffs in the first place, Monday’s contest was pretty much a must-win. After the teams traded goals up until the start of the second period, things were looking good for New York, after they completely dominated the second frame, outshooting Philadelphia by a 23-8 margin, before a tip from Anders Lee put the Islanders ahead 3-2 through 40 minutes.

However, a frustrating third period followed, where the tables completely turned and New York was outshot 26-7, with several situations where they were trapped in their own end due to a botched clearance. Then with only 10 seconds to go, New York blew the lead when Morgan Frost buried a rebound in-close to send the game to overtime.

Luckily for the Islanders, the Flyers had a huge turnover of their own in the extra frame, and Brock Nelson capitalized, taking a pass from Kyle Palmieri and beating Ivan Fedotov to secure a win for New York. It was obviously the result the Islanders wanted, picking up the two points, but it also feels like they squandered a chance to make up more ground in the standings in the process.

Against about 29 other teams, the overtime status of the win doesn’t matter, but considering the Flyers and Detroit Red Wings are the two teams the Islanders need to leapfrog in the standings at this point, and the fact that New York couldn’t lock down the game in regulation does dampen the excitement of the win a bit.

But moving into last night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, New York had a great opportunity, facing one of the league’s worst teams at home. However, the Islanders found themselves down about eight minutes into the game, and despite the Islanders having their chances and outshooting Chicago 24-14 through 40 minutes, things looked a little worrisome when Petr Mrazek continued to shut the door.

Bo Horvat was finally able to tie the game for the Islanders early in the third period though, burying a pass from Mathew Barzal. Then midway through the frame, Anders Lee won a battle on a forecheck to get the puck out front, and Simon Holmstrom was able to score, giving New York their first lead.

This time, the Islanders were able to hold on from there, and while the margin of victory was small, New York secured a 2-1 win to sweep their back-to-back set.


These were four points the Islanders absolutely needed in order to stay alive in the playoff race.

Of course, another blown third period lead against the Flyers isn’t necessarily momentum-building, and allowing Philadelphia to get the extra point could have real consequences for New York. The Islanders don’t come out on top in the tiebreaker against anyone, so they’ve got to finish ahead of the Flyers outright, and making it a 3-point game obviously hinders that. But regardless, there were certainly worse results that could've come from that game.

The win over Chicago in particular was also a big game for Ilya Sorokin. New York outshot the Blackhawks by quite a margin, but Sorokin looked good in net (and didn’t have much of a chance on the one goal he did allow). It’s the first time in nine games Sorokin allowed a single goal or less, and hopefully this is the start of him turning things around.

It was also a good set of games for Bo Horvat, scoring in each of the wins after entering the back-to-back set on a six-game goalless drought. Meanwhile, Brock Nelson also ended a 10-game goalless streak with the OT winner in Philadelphia. If the Islanders are going to win games, they need both of Horvat and Nelson to be contributing at a high level, so it's good to see.

With the wins, here’s where things stand for the final two playoff spots in the East:

83 points, 6 games remaining: Philadelphia Flyers
82 points, 8 games remaining: Washington Capitals
82 points, 7 games remaining: Detroit Red Wings
81 points, 7 games remaining: New York Islanders

The Islanders still aren’t in a great position, but it’s still anyone’s spot right now. With the Capitals suffering a tough loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Islanders did make up some ground, and still with a game in hand on the Flyers as well, there’s still very much a path to the playoffs. No team has really been able to go on a run and pull ahead, so the Islanders still have a chance to capitalize if they can string together some results.

New York faces the Columbus Blue Jackets tomorrow, and it’s probably one of only two games remaining where the Islanders are the clear better team going in (with the other coming against the Montreal Canadiens next week). But with other matchups still to come against the Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and two more games against the New York Rangers, the Islanders can’t afford to squander a great opportunity to pick up points tomorrow night.



OTHER ARTICLES FROM APRIL

- Islanders must bounce back for biggest game of season vs. Flyers
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