NEWARK, N.J. — The Islanders did everything they needed to do on Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough to keep their postseason hopes alive.
The Islanders were victorious in Newark, defeating the New Jersey Devls 4-2, but couldn’t get the needed help from the Pittsburgh Penguins. A 5-3 win by the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Pens effectively ended the Islanders season just hours after they wrapped up in New Jersey.
The Islanders will miss the playoffs for just the second time in the last five years. New York had managed to keep their playoff hopes alive by winning five consecutive games, while catching a bit of a break with the Leafs hitting a rough patch.
Still, the Islanders luck ran out on Saturday as the Maple Leafs rallied back from a 3-2 deficit in the third period.
“It kind of sucks cause you have no control over it,” Anders Lee said before the Leafs knocked the Islanders out of playoff contention. “We can go out there and play the game, and do our best to win, but it’s out of our hands right now. That’s what stinks. It is nerve wracking and we’ll be scoreboard watching.
“It’s unfortunately the position we’re in, but we fought hard to be in this.”
The Islanders managed to overcome a sluggish first period, in large part due to a stellar effort from Jaroslav Halak. The Islanders starter made 14 saves in the first period alone to keep the Devils at bay.
Halak made 37 saves in the win and finished the night with a .949 save percentage. Halak has won all six of his starts since he was called back up from his banishment in the AHL.
“They had a lot of energy. It was a big night for them,” Jason Chimera said. “Big night for one guy in their organization, they wanted to play well and a pretty packed house… A good atmosphere, they wanted to play well for them and obviously they had a good push in the first period.
“It could have been a different story if Jaro didn’t play that well in the first period.”
It was a fluky goal that got the Islanders on the board less than three minutes into the second period. Pelech fired the puck from the slot and his shot snuck through the legs of Keith Kinkaid, and trickled into the net.
The goal was Pelech’s third goal of the season and gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead on their fifth shot of the game.
The Islanders added to that lead moments later after scoring as a their third power play of the game expired. Nick Leddy flung the puck on net and it deflected off the stick of Anders Lee for the second goal of the night.
Jason Chimera gave the Islanders a three goal lead 3:52 into the third period. Alan Quine made a beautiful pass to set up Chimera with the Islanders on an odd-man rush.
Beau Bennett broke up Halak’s shutout bid at the five-minute mark of the period to get the Devils on the board.
Lee notched his second of the game midway through the third with the Islanders on the power play. Some good puck movement allowed Josh Bailey to send the puck to Lee, who backhanded a shot past Kinkaid.
The Devils added one final goal with 2.2 second left in the game off the stick of Dalton Prout.
“I just tried to focus shot by shot and I’m just glad guys got the goals for me tonight,” Halak said.
The Islanders have one final game left in their 2016-17 campaign. They will host the Ottawa Senators at 5 p.m. on Sunday before the offseason.
The Islanders will look to finish the year on a positive note with a win, but larger questions loom now that the Islanders have been eliminated for playoff contention. Questions that include who will be running the Islanders hockey operations department come next September, who will be behind the Islanders bench, whether the team can re-sign star John Tavares and where the organization will be playing in the near future.