Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves and three different Islanders found the back of the net in a crucial win over the Carolina Hurricanes. The win, coupled with the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay, helped keep the Islanders slim playoff chances alive.
The Islanders moved three points back of the Maple Leafs for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Leafs losing their final two games remains the only way the Islanders can make the playoffs after the Ottawa Senators locked up a playoff spot in a 2-1 shootout win over the Boston Bruins.
The Islanders didn’t know where their playoff hopes stood when their game with the Hurricanes ended, but New York took care of what they had to regardless. Brock Nelson, Scott Mayfield and Andrew Ladd all scored for the Islanders in the must-win game, which included a power play goal.
Nelson was the first to kick off the scoring 1:27 into the opening period. Nelson brought the puck to the front of the net and the puck careened into the net off the skate of a Hurricanes’ player.
“Big goal by Brock there to start us off,” Ladd told MSG Network. “I think in big games like this you can get an early one, or a couple, it kind of allows you to relax into the game. Not force things and for us that was key tonight.”
Mayfield scored moments later to give the Islanders a two-goal lead. The Islanders’ defenseman cleaned up a rebound in front of the Canes net for his second goal of the season.
Ladd scored the game’s third goal 39 seconds into the second period with the Islanders on the power play. Ladd skated over the blue line and then fired the puck past Hurricanes starter Eddie Lack.
“Huge win,” Doug Weight told MSG Network. “We just have to cross our fingers.”
Halak recorded his second shutout of the season and finished the night with a perfect save percentage. Halak has won all five starts he has had since being called back from his exile in the AHL.
A chance at a postseason berth for the Islanders has come down to final two games of the season for the Islanders, but they still need some help from Toronto. The Islanders will need to win their last two games against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and Ottawa Senators on Sunday.
They will also need the Maple Leafs to lose their final two games, one of which can come in overtime or the shootout. The Leafs play the Penguins on Saturday and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.