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New York Islanders

Islanders Reclaim Playoff Spot; Defeat Ducks For Sixth-Straight Win



AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

For the first time in nearly two months, the New York Islanders are back in a playoff spot.

With their sixth win in a row, 6-1 on Sunday night at Honda Center over the Anaheim Ducks, the Islanders have taken hold of the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re just taking it one game at a time right now,” Casey Cizikas told reporters in Anaheim. “I think that’s kind of our mindset. Each game we have a mentality to go in there and be the hardest working group. Guys are buying into that, and we’re coming away with big points right now.”

The Islanders controlled pace and play early in the game, scoring three times in the first period with textbook displays of puck movement behind each goal.

Providing a strong effort on the forecheck, Simon Holmstrom won a battle for the puck in the corner and quickly dished it to Cizikas in front for his eighth goal of the season at 5:11 of the period.

“It’s been a lot of fun [playing with Holmstrom and Pierre Engvall],” Cizikas said. “They see the ice a lot differently than I do. The way that they handle the puck, the way that they create space, the way they’re responsible in our end and the way that leads offense. It’s been a lot of fun playing with them, and they’ve definitely pushed me.”

Two minutes later, Mike Reilly stood deep in the Islanders’ end and hit Kyle Palmieri on a go route at the Anaheim blue line. In alone on Ducks goalie Lukas Dostal, Palmieri made a quick move, pushing the puck ever so slightly into the back of the net for his 20th goal of the season.

“Who deserves credit,” head coach Patrick Roy posed after the game. “Mike for making the perfect pass or Kyle for catching the pass?”

It’s the sixth time in his career that Palmieri has reached the 20-goal marker in a season and his first as a member of the Islanders.

Brock Nelson is no stranger to putting up 20 goals in a season and is now on the verge of hitting 30 for the third year in a row. His 29th of the season came on the power play, making it 3-0 Islanders with assists from Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal.

The Islanders’ three goals in the period came on just six shots, which was all they’d have in the game until more than halfway through the second.

It wasn’t until 13:38 of the second period that the Islanders had another shot on goal. If not for the play of Semyon Varlamov in net, they likely would’ve faced a deficit entering the third period rather than holding a 3-1 lead after Alex Killorn scored for the Ducks 24 seconds into the middle frame.

“We didn’t play our best second, but we kept it a two-goal game,” Roy said. “That made me very happy, seeing them talking to you guys, saying that we needed to be a little bit better in the second period. It makes me proud of them. That’s exactly what I want to see from our guys.”

Aside from Killorn’s tally, Varlamov was made of stone for the Islanders. He stopped 22 of the 23 shots that came his way, making his first start in six games, resulting in his first win since Dec. 13.

“It’s been a long time, I think it’s been three months or something,” Varlamov said. “I’m very happy to get the chance to play today. I felt pretty good right from the beginning, so I’m glad we won.”

After playing much of the second period on their heels, the Islanders came out with a burst of energy to start the third. Thirty-four seconds into the frame, Horvat pushed the advantage back to three, scoring his 26th goal of the season. The lead eventually inflated to five as Engvall and Cal Clutterbuck combined for a pair of goals before the final buzzer.

Now at 29-20-14, the Islanders are riding a wave of their best hockey of the season, having gained 12 points in the standings on their recent streak.

They’ll carry that momentum into Arena tomorrow night when they visit the Los Angeles Kings.




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