Islanders still in playoff picture, visit Blue Jackets

On Tuesday night, the New York Islanders picked the most opportune time possible to play one of their best third periods of the season and finally win the second game of a back-to-back set.

Whether the Islanders can continue a timely winning streak on Thursday night might determine whether their season continues beyond mid-April.

New York will look to continue its last-ditch climb into the playoff race when it visits the Columbus Blue Jackets in a battle of Metropolitan Division rivals.

The Islanders were off Wednesday after scoring twice in the third period on Tuesday night to edge the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 2-1. The Blue Jackets haven’t played since Monday, when they continued a four-game homestand by upsetting the Colorado Avalanche 4-1.

The third-period comeback capped a best-case scenario for the Islanders (33-27-15, 81 points), who closed within one point of the Capitals and Detroit Red Wings in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference by virtue of Washington’s 6-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

The Capitals (36-28-10) officially occupy the second wild card because they have a game in hand on the Red Wings (37-30-8).

The Islanders are also two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers (36-29-11, 83 points) in the race for third place in the Metropolitan. New York has a game in hand on Philadelphia.

The Islanders’ path to the playoffs looked much steeper when they trailed 1-0 after two periods on Tuesday against the lottery-bound Blackhawks.

But Bo Horvat tied the game 1:33 into the third and Simon Holmstrom scored at the 9:25 mark for New York, which limited the Blackhawks to just five shots in the final frame even though Chicago had a power-play opportunity before playing six-on-five for most of the last two minutes.

The victory marked just the third this season where the Islanders have won when trailing after two periods (3-23-2) and it was the first time they’ve won the second game of a back-to-back set (1-6-3). New York beat the Flyers 4-3 in overtime on Monday.

“I’m not going to say it was a great win — I’m also going to say it was a great game,” Islanders coach Patrick Roy said of Tuesday’s performance. “That’s the type of hockey we need to play if we want to give ourselves a chance to make the playoffs.”

The Blue Jackets (25-38-12, 62 points), who have the fewest points in the Eastern Conference, will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season. But Columbus played spoiler for a second straight game on Monday, when it scored three times in a span of less than nine minutes in the second period against the playoff-bound Avalanche.

Two nights earlier, the Blue Jackets damaged the Pittsburgh Penguins’ playoff hopes by overcoming a two-goal, third-period deficit before earning a 4-3 win in a shootout. The Penguins are three points behind the Capitals and Red Wings in the race for the second wild card.

The Blue Jackets haven’t won three straight games since a three-game run from March 11-16, 2022.

“We keep reinforcing winning habits and what needs to be done consistently to win a hockey game in the National Hockey League,” Blue Jackets first-year coach Pascal Vincent said. “And the last two games, we saw a team that is executing those habits.”

–Field Level Media