For the 3rd time in the last 4 seasons, the New York Islanders are going to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Last night, the Islanders defeated the top team in the NHL, the Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime. With the victory, the Islanders guaranteed a spot in this year’s playoffs.
The game was a microcosm of how the islanders season has gone. Missing two of their top defenseman (Travis Hamonic and Calvin deHann), arguably their most clutch player this year (Cal Clutterbuck), and with their 4th string (yes 4th string) goaltender Christopher Gibson between the pipes, the Islanders played a strong first two periods against the tough Capitals.
The game entered the third period tied 1-1, and the Islanders looked poised to battle the top NHL team to the end. Two quick goals by Washington, and all of a sudden the score was 3-1. Islanders fans everywhere had that same sick feeling in their stomach that we are all too familiar with. Every time this team shows some hope, the pessimistic fan base knows that bad is coming (see Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh for proof).
But this game was different. As the islanders have done all season, they continued to fight. Kyle Okposo scored a big goal at the 8:40 mark, and all of sudden it seemed like the islanders had life again. A goal by Anders Lee less than two minutes later, and the Isles were back tied at 3-3.
The game went into overtime, and with the firepower of Alex Ovechkin, TJ Oshie and others, the Capitals were bound to dominate the extra period. But the Islanders again fought hard, and had some huge saves by 4th string goalie Christopher Gibson. With just under 3 minutes left in overtime, Isles capital John Tavares drove in and put a shot on net that was kicked aside by Vezina trophy favorite Braden Holtby. Tavares collected the rebound, and instead of attempting another quick shot, he laid off a beautiful pass to defense Thomas Hickey, who was trailing right behind him. Holtby was out of position, and Hickey buried the shot in the top corner to give the Islanders the 4-3 overtime victory.
With the two points, the Islanders clinched a post season berth, and now will have to see how the final few games play out to see who their first round opponent will be. The Isles currently trail the crosstown Rangers by 2 points (with a game in hand), but might be better suited to stay below the Rangers in the standings, and avoid a first round matchup with the red hot Pittsburgh Penguins. We’ll dive into a playoff preview later in the week once match ups are set, but for now, let’s rejoice as Islanders fans and enjoy the fact that this team is playoff bound yet again!