A year ago, Garth Snow used the one chip he had - the dismissal of too-longtime head coach Jack Capuano - to save his own job, and buy at least another season for himself under the Islanders' new ownership. Today the question is, what will Snow do to save his team's season?

Because this is a season worth saving. Because this is a team with a richly-talented core that deserves to be put in the best position to grab a playoff spot.

John Tavares, possibly in his final months as an Islander, has entered the prime of his career playing the best hockey of his life.

Josh Bailey, the other All Star and potential unrestricted free agent, has had his breakout season on the wing of Tavares and the prayers of the faithful.

And the biggest surprise of all is that rookie Mathew Barzal, whom everyone in the Country knew would eventually be a good NHL player, is approaching greatness…already.

As a result of the above, along with Snow's smart trade for Jordan Eberle and the continued development of Anders Lee as a net-front goal scorer, the Islanders - winners of just 24 of 48 games heading into tonight's matchup against the woeful Coyotes - have a pair of lines at the top of the forward rotation that most teams would die for.

Is Snow about to waste all this? Even if he is confident Tavares is coming back, is Snow going to blow another year of the superstar's career?

The general manager could not possibly do that.

Before we continue, let's stop with the whining about the injuries. My respect for Doug Weight, and my hopes for him as a coach and leader of the franchise, have been made clear in this space. But there are moments when I wonder if Weight has been kidnapped, and replaced by a lookalike.

It was painful to read his quotes last week, when Weight did the inauthentic dance between moaning about missing players from his lineup while asserting that he doesn't want to make excuses. Then why bring it up, Coach?

Here is the quote from Weight after the loss to the Devils last Wednesday night, courtesy of the Twitter of NHL.com's Brian Compton: "You can say makeshift. You can say whatever you want. The fact is, we have seven, now eight guys out. Listen, no one has a violin here. I'm not looking for it. But it's tough."

A few thoughts here:

- The Islanders started losing plenty before these guys got hurt, with the exception of Calvin de Haan, whose loss has been so debilitating that never mind the Norris - he should be up for the Hart Trophy next season.

- On almost any given day, even when they are relatively healthy, the Islanders do not dress the best lineup of players they possibly could.

- Do we really need to go through the injury lists of half the teams in the league to make a formal plea for the woe-is-us to cease from the Islanders?

- Doug Weight the player might have cringed over these comments by a coach.

- Did Snow write this script for him?



The biggest problem with Weight's comments - reminiscent of Bill Stewart's legendary "Have you looked at our lineup"? from 1999 - is that it's insulting to the players wearing your crest, giving their best.

And then how do you explain the win Saturday night in Chicago, besides the Blackhawks not being good anymore, and apparently eating and drinking their way through their five-day break? If the lineup is as thin on skill and desire as Weight implies, are we left to assume they won because the coaching was brilliant?

This is a playoff-caliber team. The Islanders' top two lines are top-five in the entire league. They have a No. 1 defenseman in Nick Leddy. The goaltending has yet to be straightened out, but Jaroslav Halak is starting to be a big factor in wins. He's the guy they'll ride.

Even if you don't believe in Halak, faith in earning a playoff spot is justifiable because the Eastern Conference is awful. Buffalo, Ottawa, and Detroit are out of the playoff hunt and looking to sell. Montreal and Florida may be capable of teasing runs, but they are long shots.

At this moment, it looks like the two playoff berths will come from five teams: the Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, and Hurricanes.

Even when they're down a few players, and despite the edge in goal for their crosstown rival, the Islanders are better than the Rangers (short a few key players of their own). Of the group of five, only the Penguins have the talent and track record to be considered a favorite. Most unbiased observers would put the Islanders right behind Pittsburgh.

Surely, Snow knows this. He has plenty of chips to make trades for upgrades on the blueline, and third and fourth lines. As the All-Star break arrives this week, trade talk will intensify.

With so much on the line, it's time for Snow to stand up and save his team's season.

Tags: John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Chris Botta
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Isles prep for second round 00:01:26
The Isles prep for the second round awaiting their opponent. Does the long layoff from play help or hurt the team battling injuries?

The Islanders will play in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs ... eventually.

New York, which swept the Pittsburgh Penguins, is still waiting to find out who it will play given the Hurricanes forced a Game 7 against the Washington Capitals with a 5-2 win in Game 6 on Monday night.

The Islanders last played April 16, when they beat the Penguins 3-1 to finish off the sweep. In the days since, they have focused on getting healthy, as several players, including Cal Clutterbuck and Scott Mayfield, have been dealing with injuries.

Tags: Cal Clutterbuck, Scott Mayfield
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Feb 28, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center Casey Cizikas (53) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) and right wing Cal Clutterbuck (15) and defenseman Scott Mayfield (24) during the second period at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Feb 28, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center Casey Cizikas (53) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) and right wing Cal Clutterbuck (15) and defenseman Scott Mayfield (24) during the second period at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

As the Islanders continue their preparation for the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs while waiting to see who their opponent will be, they got some banged-up bodies back on the ice.

Right wing Cal Clutterbuck and defenseman Scott Mayfield both returned to practice Monday. They hadn't practiced with the team since the Isles defeated the Penguins in Game 4 last Tuesday to secure a first-round sweep. Clutterbuck missed the third period of Game 4.

Tags: Cal Clutterbuck, Scott Mayfield
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Isles await 2nd round opponent 00:01:26
Islanders players discuss their long hiatus prior to the playoffs' 2nd round and staying sharp.

With the news that Johnny Boychuk will be out three-to-four weeks with a lower-body injury after blocking a shot with his leg in Tuesday's Game 4 win over the Penguins, Thomas Hickey likely will get his chance.

The 30-year-old defenseman is set to return to the Islanders' lineup for their second-round series against either Washington or Carolina. 

"The news on Johnny, one of my best friends here, that's tough news," Hickey said Friday. "But we've got big goals, big aspirations, and if someone's not getting bumped and bruised and a little banged up, we're probably not getting to that point. So we just move forward."

Tags: Johnny Boychuk, Thomas Hickey
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Mar 24, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner (40) makes a save against the Arizona Coyotes during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Mar 24, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner (40) makes a save against the Arizona Coyotes during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The NHL announced on Friday that Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner is one of the three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually "to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." 

In September, Lehner revealed in a piece for The Athletic that he had been addicted to drugs and alcohol and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. On April 6, Lehner wrote in a note posted on his Twitter account that he'd been sober for one year.

Tags: Robin Lehner, Thomas Greiss
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New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk shoots against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk shoots against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk will miss 3-4 weeks with a lower-body injury he suffered during Game 4 of their first-round series against the Penguins, GM Lou Lamoriello said on Friday.

Boychuk blocked a shot off his right leg in the second period of Tuesday's win over the Penguins and did not return. 

Tags: Cal Clutterbuck, Johnny Boychuk, Scott Mayfield
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Apr 12, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) celebrates with goalie Robin Lehner (40) after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in game two of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Apr 12, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) celebrates with goalie Robin Lehner (40) after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in game two of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The Islanders are going to be waiting a while to find out who their next opponent is.

They know for the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs that they'll play the winner of the Washington-Carolina series, but that series is guaranteed to go until at least Monday night after the Hurricanes defeated the Capitals Thursday night in Game 4 to tie the series at 2-2. The home team has won each game, and Washington will host Game 5 on Saturday before the series shifts back to Raleigh Monday for Game 6. Had Washington won Thursday, they could've won the series on Saturday.

So it will be more than a week between games for the Isles, who clinched a sweep of the Penguins on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. 

Tags: Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals
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Trotz talks prep for next round 00:01:55
New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz talks about the team's time off in between rounds as well as possibly facing the Capitals.

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz didn't have an update on Johnny Boychuk or Cal Clutterbuck, who were both hurt in Game 4 of their first-round series against the Penguins.

The Islanders, who swept Pittsburgh on Tuesday, did not practice on Thursday as they look ahead to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Tags: Cal Clutterbuck, Johnny Boychuk
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Mar 3, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz yells during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)
Mar 3, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz yells during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

Barry Trotz had something to say upon being presented his Stanley Cup ring in November, addressing the Washington squad he had helmed to the franchise's long-awaited first championship the previous spring.

"You can do it again," Trotz told Alex Ovechkin and the Caps in the visiting locker room at Barclays Center. "You'll have to go through the (effing) Island, OK? But you guys can do it again."

No one is scoffing anymore at that middle zing, no one should be snickering anymore at this woebegone franchise, which has proven dramatically what a little adult supervision, accountability, actual on-ice structure -- and a bought-in rallying point concerning a departed superstar -- can do in implementing the longest of overdue culture changes and fostering immediate results.

Tags: John Tavares, Robin Lehner
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Apr 14, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) congratulates right wing Leo Komarov (left) on his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game three of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. New York won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)
Apr 14, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) congratulates right wing Leo Komarov (left) on his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game three of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. New York won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The New York Islanders found a perfect recipe and executed it to perfection as they completed a first-round series sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday evening with a 3-1 victory.

"A lot of people wrote us off and they are a bit shocked," Jordan Eberle said on MSG Network. "We are confident in the way that we play. This is one of the tighter knit teams that I have played on. We love battling and playing for each other. You do that every night on a consistent basis you can go places."

Tags: Cal Clutterbuck, Johnny Boychuk
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Apr 14, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) congratulates right wing Leo Komarov (left) on his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game three of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. New York won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)
Apr 14, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) congratulates right wing Leo Komarov (left) on his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game three of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. New York won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)

The Islanders completed the opening round sweep of the Penguins in a 3-1 road victory to move onto the next stage in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night. >> Box score

Six Takeaways from Tuesday's game

1) Facing elimination on their home ice, the Penguins got off on the board in a hurry to kick off the game. Jake Guentzel opened up the scoring with assists from Sidney Crosby and Jared McCann in the first 35 seconds of this one. 

Tags: Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Robin Lehner
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Apr 14, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) congratulates right wing Leo Komarov (left) on his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game three of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. New York won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)
Apr 14, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) congratulates right wing Leo Komarov (left) on his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game three of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. New York won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)

The New York Islanders are in position to usher Pittsburgh out of the playoffs with barely a squeak from the Penguins.

The Islanders can complete a four-game sweep in their first-round playoff series with a win Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

It that's a surprise -- Pittsburgh was widely picked to win the series despite finishing one spot and three points behind the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division -- it shouldn't be, argued New York goaltender Robin Lehner.

Tags: Jordan Eberle, Robin Lehner
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Apr 14, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders right wing Tom Kuhnhackl (14) and and Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Garrett Wilson (10) fight for the puck during the first period in game three of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)
Apr 14, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders right wing Tom Kuhnhackl (14) and and Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Garrett Wilson (10) fight for the puck during the first period in game three of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)

Each time the Penguins take a small step forward and attempt to grab momentum, the Islanders respond with force.

The Islanders have pushed the Penguins to the brink of elimination with a 4-1 victory in Game 3, extending their advantage in the series to 3-0.

The Penguins got the quick start they were looking for in their first home game when Garrett Wilson redirected the puck past Robin Lehner to open up the scoring at 12:54 of the first period. The crowd was on their feet, and everything was trending in Pittsburgh's direction.

Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins
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Apr 14, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) reacts with right wing Josh Bailey (12) after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period in game three of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)
Apr 14, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) reacts with right wing Josh Bailey (12) after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period in game three of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)

The Islanders took a commanding 3-0 series lead in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday following a 2-1 victory in Pittsburgh. >> Box score

Six Takeaways from Sunday's game

1. The 3-0 series lead guarantees little, but it's certainly a comfortable spot to be in for the Isles. Only four NHL teams have overcome a 3-0 deficit in Stanley Cup Playoffs history. The most recent team to accomplish the feat were the Kings during the first round in 2014, and Los Angeles went on to defeat the Ranger in the Stanley Cup that year. 

Tags: Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, Leo Komarov, Robin Lehner
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Apr 12, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) celebrates with goalie Robin Lehner (40) after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in game two of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Apr 12, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) celebrates with goalie Robin Lehner (40) after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in game two of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The New York Islanders held serve and did it in a favorite, nostalgic place, winning the first two games of their first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins at raucous Nassau Coliseum.

Young center Mathew Barzal has enjoyed his first postseason experience as much as those vocal fans have digged cheering the Islanders to a 2-0 series lead.

"I just love the intensity out there," Barzal said. "Being in the playoffs, every game is so big and every play matters so much. I just love how focused our group is and just dialing in to a game."

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Winter is here.

With Game of Thrones set to return Sunday for its eighth and final season, New York athletes gave their predictions and talked about theories for how the saga will end.

Click below...

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Apr 12, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner (40) makes a save against Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the third period of game two of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Apr 12, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner (40) makes a save against Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the third period of game two of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The 2-0 series lead the Islanders are taking into Sunday's Game 3 matinee in Pittsburgh is well-earned. They were the better team throughout two games at the raucous Coliseum. And in Game 2 they clearly had the Penguins rattled, despite the fact that the Pens' core has been through it all over the years in the postseason.

But in the NHL playoffs, no lead is safe, and Barry Trotz knows that as well as anybody. Just last year, when he was with Washington, the division-winning Captials fell behind 2-0 in the first tround against Columbus after dropping the first two games in overtime. They needed double-overtime to take Game 3 and eventually winning four straight to take the series before winning the Stanley Cup.

Tags: Adam Pelech, Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal, Pittsburgh Penguins, Robin Lehner, Ryan Pulock
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Islanders take 2-0 series lead 00:00:40
New York Islanders have taken a 2-0 series lead and are ready to bring all of the momentum from the Nassau Coliseum to Pittsburgh.

The Islanders had every reason to crack after allowing the opening goal following five missed power-play opportunities.

However, it was New York that kept its composure and erased a one-goal deficit en route to a 3-1 victory and commanding 2-0 series lead against Pittsburgh.

The Islanders are supposed to be the inexperienced team after missing the previous two postseasons, but never flinched while facing adversity.

Tags: Anders Lee, Casey Cizikas, Johnny Boychuk, Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Pittsburgh Penguins
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Apr 12, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) celebrates his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period of game two of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Apr 12, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) celebrates his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period of game two of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

This is everything the Islanders could have hoped for.

They made a charge at the end of the season to secure home-ice advantage in the first round of the NHL playoffs, and they've made it count. They used two third-period goals to take Game 2 from the Penguins Friday night, 3-1, in front of a raucous Coliseum crowd and take a 2-0 series lead into Sunday's Game 3 in Pittsburgh.

The Islanders have their first 2-0 lead in a series since 1983, when they won their fourth straight Stanley Cup. 

Tags: Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Pittsburgh Penguins, Robin Lehner
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Apr 10, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) celebrates after the game with right wing Josh Bailey (12) and center Valtteri Filppula (51) in the gam against the Pittsburgh Penguins in game one of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports  (Dennis Schneidler)
Apr 10, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) celebrates after the game with right wing Josh Bailey (12) and center Valtteri Filppula (51) in the gam against the Pittsburgh Penguins in game one of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

The opening game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins had it all.

It went to overtime, featured three ties, nine penalties -- including a boarding call on the Islanders' Anders Lee that resulted in a potential injury for Penguins defenseman Erik Gudbranson -- and a whole bunch of after-the-whistle pushing and shoving. Meanwhile, the teams traded seven goals, the last of which might remain a viral sensation until the Stanley Cup is hoisted in June.

Anyone ready for a few more of these?

Tags: Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Pittsburgh Penguins
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Apr 10, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) controls the puck in front of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) during the second period in game one of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports  (Dennis Schneidler)
Apr 10, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) controls the puck in front of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) during the second period in game one of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

The Islanders wiped the slate clean on their power play entering the playoffs.

It was one of the big concerns entering their first-round series against the Penguins, the fact that they had the third-worst power play in the NHL at 14.5 percent and finished the regular season having converted just three of their previous 50 power-play attempts. 

But in the Islanders' Game 1 overtime win against the Penguins on Wednesday, it took all of 25 seconds for the Islanders to score on their first power-play chance of the playoffs, Brock Nelson burying a Jordan Eberle feed in front to put the Isles up 2-1 late in the first period.

Tags: Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, Pittsburgh Penguins
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Islanders ready for Game 2 00:01:27
New York Islanders are taking the momentum from their Game 1 victory over the Penguins and using it to keep focused on Game 2.

Barry Trotz has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt after winning the Stanley Cup last year with Washington and leading the Islanders to an improbable playoff berth. Even so, there were a few eyebrows raised regarding his decision to play Tom Kuhnhackl in a top-six spot over Michael Dal Colle in Game 1 Wednesday night against the Penguins.

There won't be anybody doubting Kuhnhackl's presence in the Game 2 lineup after the forward, who won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh, had an effective 17:42 in the Islanders' Game 1 overtime victory.

Tags: Anthony Beauvillier, Michael dal Colle, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tom Kuhnhackl
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Islanders take Game 1 00:01:15
New York Islanders took the home crowd energy and used it to take an overtime win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Each moment has the potential to become a game-changing event in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, and all teams are searching for an opportunity to build momentum. Every shift gets magnified, every faceoff becomes more critical. Special teams can become an enormous sense of confidence, or have a negative impact on a team that grows with each failed opportunity.

In Game 1 of the Islanders' first-round series against the Penguins, New York managed emotions and overcame two critical moments which could have gotten the best of even the mentally toughest teams.

Tom Kuhnhackl lit the lamp just 33 seconds into the game and sent the Nassau Coliseum crowd into a frenzy. However, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan challenged for offside and the goal was disallowed.

Tags: Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Nick Leddy
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 (Dennis Schneidler)
(Dennis Schneidler)

In Game 1 of the Opening Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Islanders picked up an exhilirating overtime win over the Penguins to kick off the series.

With the Coliseum packed to the ceiling, the Islanders looked to get on the board first in the opening minute. However, the goal was called back as an Isles player was deemed offside. But less than a minute later, Jordan Eberle potted the first goal of the night. 

Phil Kessel would tie the game up for the Penguins later in the period, but the Isles skated into the locker room with the lead after one thanks to a power play goal by Brock Nelson.  >> Box Score

Tags: Adam Pelech, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, Pittsburgh Penguins, Scott Thompson
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Dec 10, 2018; Uniondale, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58) exchanges words with New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield (24) during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Dec 10, 2018; Uniondale, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58) exchanges words with New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield (24) during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

As expected, Robin Lehner is likely the Islanders' starting goalie for Game 1 of their first-round series against the Penguins Wednesday night at the Coliseum. Per reports, Thomas Greiss was the only goalie participating in the Isles' optional morning skate, an indication that Lehner will start.

Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin didn't partake in Pittsburgh's optional skate. He's considered a game-time decision along with Zach Aston-Reese, meaning Pittsburgh's lineup is subject to change.

However, based on practice reports from Tuesday, here are the projected lineups for Game 1.

Islanders

Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins, Robin Lehner
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Brooklyn or Nassau Coliseum? 00:00:49
In most instances fans would always choose to upgrade when it comes to their team, but for Isles fans there's no replacing the 'Old Barn'.

The Islanders and Penguins face off in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night at the Nassau Coliseum. 

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Islanders talk ahead of playoffs 00:01:12
New York Islanders clinched home ice against the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Anders Lee knows fans will rock the Nassau Coliseum

The Penguins have their longtime stars and the championship pedigree, but the Islanders have been up for every challenge this season, and what they may lack in individual talent is made up for in commitment and chemistry.

With that in mind, here's a look at how the Islanders and Penguins match up heading into the first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

FORWARDS

Tags: Adam Pelech, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Johnny Boychuk, Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Nick Leddy, Pittsburgh Penguins, Robin Lehner, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, Thomas Greiss, Tom Kuhnhackl, Valtteri Filppula
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This wasn't supposed to happen again at the old barn. April 25, 2015 was it for the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum -- although fans hoped it wouldn't be after the Isles defeated Washington to force a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs before bowing out of the tournament, out of the barn, out of Long Island.

But against all odds, the biggest, loudest party on the Island is back Wednesday night, and everyone paying money to take part should drink it all in, because it is a deserved reward for the Islanders after the season they've had, the one that nobody saw coming.

Playoff games anywhere, let alone at the Coliseum, seemed like the wildest of dreams once captain John Tavares departed. Nobody would've believed any bit of the path to this moment, Game 1 on Hempstead Turnpike, if it was told back in 2015...

Tags: John Tavares, Robin Lehner, Thomas Greiss
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Feb 28, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) skates past a sign held by a fan of the New York Islanders during warm ups before a game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Feb 28, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) skates past a sign held by a fan of the New York Islanders during warm ups before a game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Among those who felt John Tavares could have better handled his departure from the Islander last summer is franchise icon Clark Gillies

The NHL Hall of Famer who won four consecutive championships with the Islanders during the 1980s ripepd the former Isles captain Monday at a fan event hosted by Newsday. 

When asked about Tavares not re-signing with the team and inking a seven-year, 77 million deal with the Maple Leafs, Gillies held little back: 

Tags: John Tavares
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Mar 24, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner (40) makes a save against the Arizona Coyotes during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Mar 24, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner (40) makes a save against the Arizona Coyotes during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

This has been a special year for Islanders goalie Robin Lehner, and not just because he has helped lead the team back to the playoffs with a 25-13-5 record in net this season. 

The 27-year-old goalie, who was awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed this season, marked the end of a career-best year for him on Sunday by also celebrating the one-year anniversary of his sobriety. 

The Islanders goalie reflected on his journey in a tweet, preceded with the caption, "anything is possible with this group."

Tags: Robin Lehner
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Apr 1, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders celebrates the goal by New York Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle (7) against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)
Apr 1, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders celebrates the goal by New York Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle (7) against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

The Islanders will face the Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Here's the full schedule:

Game 1
Wed. April 10 7:30 p.m.
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

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Dec 1, 2018; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the opening puck drop between the New York Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Dec 1, 2018; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the opening puck drop between the New York Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The Islanders and Penguins will face off in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In advance of the matchup, the teams took turns throwing shade at one another on Twitter. 

Click below to see the exchange...

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 (Geoff Burke)
(Geoff Burke)

WASHINGTON (AP) Valtteri Filppula scored twice in his return from injury, Robin Lehner stopped all 29 shots he faced and the New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 3-0 in each team's regular-season finale Saturday night to clinch home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Coach Barry Trotz's team came into the game against his former team needing at least one point to secure a second-place finish in the Metropolitan Division, just behind Washington. The Islanders will open the playoffs at home for the first time since 1988 against Pittsburgh.

The Capitals will face Carolina in the first round as they try to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Washington had nothing left to play for in game 82, so center Nicklas Backstrom, right wing T.J. Oshie and defenseman John Carlsonrested and backup goaltender Pheonix Copley started and made 18 saves.

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Washington Capitals center Travis Boyd attempts to bring the puck across the blue line defended by New York Islanders center Tanner Fritz during the first period at Barclays Center. (Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)
Washington Capitals center Travis Boyd attempts to bring the puck across the blue line defended by New York Islanders center Tanner Fritz during the first period at Barclays Center. (Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)

The New York Islanders' division championship drought was extended to 30 seasons Thursday night. But the Islanders can finally end another epic drought Saturday night, when they visit the Washington Capitals in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Each squad was off Friday following pivotal 2-1 wins Thursday, when the Islanders edged the host Florida Panthers in the shootout and the Capitals beat the visiting Montreal Canadiens in regulation.

The win by the Capitals (48-25-8) locked up their fourth straight Metropolitan Division championship and brought an end to one decades-long pursuit for the Islanders (47-27-7), who needed Washington to lose to have a chance to win the division Saturday night. >> Read More

Tags: Washington Capitals
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Nov 10, 2018; Sunrise, FL, USA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers with left wing Josh Bailey (12) and defenseman Nick Leddy (2) in the first period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports (Robert Mayer)
Nov 10, 2018; Sunrise, FL, USA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers with left wing Josh Bailey (12) and defenseman Nick Leddy (2) in the first period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports (Robert Mayer)

The New York Islanders, who on Saturday clinched their first playoff berth since 2016, visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday night in what amounts to a tune-up for the postseason.

Twenty Islanders have playoff experience, and five have lifted the Stanley Cup for other teams: defensemen Johnny Boychuk (Boston Bruins, 2011) and Nick Leddy (Chicago Blackhawks, 2013), center Valtteri Filppula (Detroit Red Wings, 2008) and wingers Andrew Ladd (Carolina Hurricanes, 2006; Blackhawks, 2010) and Tom Kuhnhackl (Pittsburgh Penguins, 2016 and 2017).

New Islanders coach Barry Trotz is also a champ, leading the Washington Capitals to the title last year.

"It's always nice when you have an idea what to expect," Kuhnhackl told Newsday. "The intensity and physicality elevates in the playoffs."

Tags: Andrew Ladd, Florida Panthers, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Tom Kuhnhackl, Valtteri Filppula
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Mar 7, 2019; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; New York Islanders center Valtteri Filppula (51) prepares for a faceoff in the first period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports (Marc DesRosiers)
Mar 7, 2019; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; New York Islanders center Valtteri Filppula (51) prepares for a faceoff in the first period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports (Marc DesRosiers)

The Islanders practiced Wednesday morning before heading to Florida for their penultimate game of the regular season, and there was a piece of encouraging news regarding their center depth.

Valtteri Filppula returned to practice for the first time since suffering what he revealed was a hyperextended elbow on March 19. The next day he was ruled out for four weeks, but he told NHL.com's Brian Compton that he could be ready for Game 1 of the first round last week. Barry Trotz also didn't rule Filppula out for Game 1.

Tags: Robin Lehner, Valtteri Filppula
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Apr 1, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders celebrates the goal by New York Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle (7) against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)
Apr 1, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders celebrates the goal by New York Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle (7) against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

By losing to the Maple Leafs on Monday and failing to close in on the Capitals, the Islanders left themselves open to losing control of their destiny as they hope to open the playoffs next week at Nassau Coliseum.

But the idle Isles caught two breaks on Tuesday when the Penguins, who are two points behind the Isles in third place in the Metropolitan Division, lost 4-1 to a lottery-bound Red Wings team, and the Blue Jackets fell 6-2 to the Bruins. Carolina defeated Toronto 4-1 to jump Columbus in the standings.

Tags: Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals
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If the boos weren't enough evidence that Islanders fans have yet to forgive John Tavares for signing with the Maple Leafs last offseason, then one spectator's rant against the Isles' former captain really hammered that truth home. 

When Tavares headed to the penalty box in the third period of Toronto's 2-1 victory over the Islanders at the Coliseum on Monday, a gentleman used the opportunity to lay into the 28-year-old and gave him a piece of his mind. 


Apr 1, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) screens New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner (40) during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)
Apr 1, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) screens New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner (40) during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

The atmosphere wasn't quite as rabid as it was for John Tavares' first return to the Coliseum, but Isles fans of course were none too happy to see their former captain score his first goal against his former club as the Isles fell to the Leafs Monday night, 2-1, in their final home game of the regular season. Tavares' goal ended up being the game-winner.

Worse for the Isles is they failed to capitalize on an opportunity to close the gap on Washington for the Metropolitan Division lead as the Capitals lost to the Panthers. The Isles remain three points back with two to play. Robin Lehner made 16 of his 36 saves in the first period. >> Box score


First period:

  • N/A
Tags: John Tavares, Robin Lehner, Toronto Maple Leafs
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Mar 24, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner (40) makes a save against the Arizona Coyotes during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Mar 24, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner (40) makes a save against the Arizona Coyotes during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Robin Lehner is going to help 7-year-old Jack Foley check the last box off his wish list.

Jack's story went viral on Sunday when his mother Lauren shared a video on her Twitter account of Jack holding a checklist, with "survive 3 open heart surgeries" and "defy the odds & play ice hockey" already checked off. The last item on the list is "receive a stick from Robin Lehner.

"Hi Mr. Lehner. I'll be at tomorrow's game at the barn. Hopefully you'll see me and my poster and you'll help me complete my checklist. Thanks," Jack says in the video.

Tags: Robin Lehner
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Feb 14, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; The New York Islanders celebrate after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports (Aaron Doster)
Feb 14, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; The New York Islanders celebrate after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports (Aaron Doster)

The most important piece of business for the Islanders was taken care of Saturday night when they punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now they look ahead to which seed they might get and who they might face when the first round starts next week.

But even though there are just three games remaining in the NHL regular season entering their Monday night matchup against John Tavares and the Maple Leafs, the Isles can finish anywhere from first in the Metropolitan Division to the last wild-card spot.

Let's take a look at all the playoff scenarios as the Islanders, who currently occupy the No. 2 spot in the Metro, prepare for the final week of the season:

Metropolitan Division champions

Tags: Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals
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Feb 28, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) skates past a sign held by a fan of the New York Islanders during warm ups before a game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Feb 28, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) skates past a sign held by a fan of the New York Islanders during warm ups before a game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

John Tavares could have reason to celebrate at Nassau Coliseum on Monday night. 

The former Islanders captain, who was mercilessly booed and taunted by fans in his return to the arena four weeks ago, can help the Maple Leafs clinch a playoff spot with a win against his former team.

It would also come nine months to the day Tavares spurned the Islanders to sign a seven-year, $77 million deal with Toronto. 

Tags: John Tavares
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Isles look ahead to post-season 00:01:58
Islanders captain Anders Lee and G.M. Lou Lamoriello talk about making the playoffs and finishing the regular season strong

Count the boss as a happy camper this weekend. 

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello called the team's playoff berth -- clinched Saturday with a 5-1 win over the Sabres -- a "tremendous accomplishment," according to Andrew Gross of Newsday

"It's certainly a tremendous accomplishment, coming from where we were at the beginning of the year," said the longtime executive who is in his first year with the Isles.

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Mar 3, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz yells during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)
Mar 3, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz yells during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

The Islanders are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and they'll be playing their first-round matchup against a to-be-determined opponent at the Coliseum. 

That's music to Islanders coach Barry Trotz's ears. In his first season with the Islanders, he's learned how valuable home ice can be at the Islanders' home on Long Island compared to the atmosphere at Barclays Center. 

"It's got a great vibe, and I'm glad in the playoffs we'll play games here," Trotz told the New York Post. "To me, it just feels right."

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Mar 30, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders celebrate the goal by New York Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle (7) against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)
Mar 30, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders celebrate the goal by New York Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle (7) against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

The Islanders and their fans had every reason to revel in this moment.

For this isn't some ho-hum achievement, not for a team which missed the playoffs for two seasons after winning a round in 2016 and saw its star player and captain John Tavares leave in free agency, leaving everybody wondering how the Isles would pick up the pieces.

Nine months later, here the Islanders stand with an 'X' next to their name in the standings, punching their ticket to the playoffs at the Coliseum Saturday night with a 5-1 win over a Sabres team which represented the ideal opponent to face in such a clinching scenario, a woeful club offering little resistance. This is the first time the Islanders have clinched a playoff spot in March since 1990, and it's their first time clinching a berth at home in 17 years.

Tags: Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, Mathew Barzal, Matt Martin, Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres
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Mar 5, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with teammates during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Mar 5, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with teammates during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The New York Islanders needed just 33 seconds Thursday night to remove the desperation from Saturday night's penultimate home game and turn it into an opportunity to celebrate.

The Islanders will look to cap one of the biggest surprise stories of the NHL season Saturday night, when they try to clinch a playoff berth against the visiting Buffalo Sabres at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.

Both teams were off Friday following chaotic games Thursday. The Islanders came back from a pair of two-goal deficits before Casey Cizikas tied the game with 1:46 remaining and Jordan Eberle scored the winning goal with 1:13 to go in a 5-4 win over the host Winnipeg Jets. The Sabres also overcame a pair of two-goal deficits against the visiting Detroit Red Wings but could not get the go-ahead score and fell in overtime by the same 5-4 score.

Tags: Buffalo Sabres
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Feb 28, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders fans celebrate a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Feb 28, 2019; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders fans celebrate a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

There could be a party-like atmosphere at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night.

Because the Islanders, who have far exceeded anybody's expectations this season, can clinch a playoff berth by defeating the Sabres on home ice as their magic number is down to two. The Isles have missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons.

Should the Capitals lose on the road against the NHL-best Lightning on Saturday, the Islanders could also pull to within one point of the Metropolitan Division lead. The Islanders and Capitals meet in Washington for the final game of the regular season on April 6.

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Mar 28, 2019; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) celebrates his goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) in the first period at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports (James Carey Lauder)
Mar 28, 2019; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) celebrates his goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) in the first period at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports (James Carey Lauder)

The Islanders used a three-goal rally in the third period, including two goals within 33 seconds with less than two minutes left, to secure a huge 5-4 win in Winnipeg Thursday night. Now at 97 points and closer to clinching a playoff berth, the Isles overcame three separate two-goal deficits. Casey Cizikas tied the game with 1:46 remaining for his 20th goal of the season, and Jordan Eberle, who scored twice in the third, netted the winner with 1:13 left.  Robin Lehner stopped 33 of 37 shots.

With the comeback win, the Islanders' magic number dropped to two, meaning they can clinch a playoff berth Saturday night at the Coliseum. >> Box score


First period:

  • :13 WPG Adam Lowry; Assists: Brandon Tanev, Nathan Beaulieu
  • 6:11 WPG Adam Lowry; Assists: Jacob Trouba, Brandon Tanev
  • 10:19 NYI Mathew Barzal; Assists: Jordan Eberle
Tags: Anders Lee, Casey Cizikas, Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal
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Mar 3, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz yells during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)
Mar 3, 2019; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz yells during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

The fight got a little tougher Tuesday night for the Islanders (44-26-7, 95 points), who are all but assured of making the playoffs -- they will enter Thursday seven points ahead of the ninth-place Blue Jackets -- but are in danger of losing home-ice advantage in the first round -- or falling into a wild card spot.

The third-place Islanders enter Thursday three points behind the first-place Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. New York has the same number of points (95) and regulation/overtime wins (40) in the same number of games (77) as the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Penguins occupy second place by virtue of a better goal differential (plus-33 to plus-24).

Should the Islanders lose in regulation and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Capitals on Thursday, the Islanders' lead over the Hurricanes, the first wild card, would fall to just two points. Carolina also has a game in hand on New York.

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 (Russell LaBounty)
(Russell LaBounty)

After blanking the Coyotes on Sunday, the Islanders got a taste of their own medicine in a 4-0 shutout against the Blue Jackets on the road Tuesday night. >> Box score


First period:

  • 5:43 CBJ Ryan Dzingel (Power Play); Assists: Zach Werenski, Boone Jenner
Tags: Columbus Blue Jackets
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