As the Islanders locked up a 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres a chant of "We Want Playoffs" echoed around Nassau Coliseum. It was the first time since the Isles run in 2013 that it has permitted around the building. The Islanders may not have secured a postseason birth, but they did put themselves in good positioning with the win.
The Islanders moved back into sole possession of second place, as the Washington Capitals lost to the Ottawa Senators in overtime, giving them a shot once again at home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
"Going into the year you have goals and we set them in training camp," Islanders Coach Jack Capuano said when asked about clinching a playoff spot."But for me right now it's a lot of fun the way that this team has played night in and night out over the course of the season. We're proud of them and the effort that we put in, and we just want to play the game. If you look around the league...it's amazing the race thats going on in the east and the west.
"You can't control that. You can control what you can control and that's all we're focused on right now."
The Islanders appeared focused on Saturday night's matchup, galloping out of that gate in the first period.
Kyle Okposo put the Islanders' ahead 1-0 off a power play goal at 6:37 of the first. The score would remain that way through the second period, where the Isles had to battle through some adversity. Frans Nielsen left the game in the second for a period of time before returning later in the game's second stanza. They also had to kill two penalties, including a four minute hooking minor on Brian Strait at 16:33.
They killed off the penalties and Jaroslav Halak, who finished with 21 saves, made the stops he needed to for the Islanders. They took a two goal lead midway in the third after catching a break at the 9:32 mark.
A Sabres pass hit off a broken stick laying on the ice and allowed the puck to bounce right to Brock Nelson. Nelson skated towards the net and beat Andrey Makarov. Nikolay Kulemin -- playing in his 500th career game -- scored a third Islander goal minutes later to seal the win.
"I thought it was a good team game," Okposo, who was named the game's second star, said. "We did a lot of things right. I thought our penalty kill was excellent, it was a big four minute kill at the end of the second, and we didn't give them a whole lot of opportunities. We played a solid game tonight."
A playoff birth is within grasping distance with the Islanders able to clinch as early as Sunday. If Ottawa losses in regulation against the Toronto Maple Leafs the the Islanders would punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
However, that doesn't mean the Islanders have their eyes glued on the scoreboard.
"We're just trying to play our way into the playoffs right now and just keep pushing," Travis Hamonic said. "Just doing the best we can. A lot of teams are winning as well, so we just can't really be scoreboard watching at this point. We just have to worry about ourselves and hope everything gets sorted out the way it's suppose to."
Okposo added: "We're thinking about playing well right now. That's a bit of an afterthought. We want to make sure we get our game back on track and be the best heading into those playoffs."
Saturday's win seemed to serve as a rejuvenating win after the Islanders squandered an opportunity to pick up two points in Columbus. Recently there were some who questioned whether the Islanders would collapse out of a playoff spot, but now the question is when -- not if -- the Islanders will clinch a playoff birth.