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New York Islanders

Islanders Clinch Playoffs In Win Over Devils

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NEWARK, NJ– For the second year in a row, the New York Islanders are headed back to the postseason after officially clinching a playoff berth on Monday night at Prudential Center with a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

“I’m very, very, very proud [of this team],” said Islanders head coach Patrick Roy. “They played some very good hockey down the stretch, and they were resilient. They worked together. I think we learned how to win.”

Throughout this rollercoaster of a season that has, at times, barely made sense, the thing that has held the Islanders back the most was their well-documented issues on the penalty kill. So it was only logical that it was the short-handed unit that made the biggest difference in the win that earned them a playoff spot.

The first of three penalties by the Islanders came when Brock Nelson was called for tripping while they were protecting a one-goal lead in the second period. Rather than surrendering a game-tying goal, the Islanders held strong.

Nelson later rectified his mistake by giving the Islanders a 3-1 lead at 11:48 of the period as he snapped a quick wrist shot past Devils goalie Jake Allen from the low slot for his 33rd goal of the year with assists from Hudson Fasching and Kyle Palmieri.

Soon after, though, the Islanders’ penalty-killing unit was called upon again. First, when Mike Reilly was sent to the box for a holding call with 4:03 left in the middle frame, and then once more after Robert Bortuzzo was handed a tripping minor to start the third. They successfully killed off both penalties to end the game a perfect three-for-three.

“There were some strong battles that the guys won along the boards,” Anders Lee said. “Special teams were big.”

Prudential Center resembled UBS Arena on Monday night, as hoards of Islanders fans made the trek out to New Jersey knowing what was at stake. The Islanders themselves were well aware of what was on the line and weren’t going to be content heading home without their playoff tickets punched.

“We didn’t want to leave it up to chance,” said Nelson. “We talked about that and how we controlled it here tonight if we took care of business.”

Even with that mindset entering the game, the Islanders struggled in the early going, sleepwalking through the beginning of the first period. It wasn’t until 7:38 of the period that they registered their first shot on goal and with it their first score of the night.

While on an extended shift in the defensive end, Lee broke the puck out for the Islanders by smartly chipping it up the wall into the neutral zone. It was there that it was picked up by Pierre Engvall, resulting in a two-on-one chance. With a cross-ice feed, Engvall perfectly set up Jean-Gabriel Pageau on a one-timer for his 11th goal of the season.

Palmieri increased the lead at 16:52 of the period as he deflected in a point shot from Reilly on the man-advantage. The goal was Palmieri’s 29th of the season and broke a run of nine consecutive failed power play opportunities for the Islanders.

The Devils to cut into the lead soon after the second period began.

After making a relatively routine glove save on a shot from Jesper Bratt, Semyon Varlamov dropped the puck to the ice, but likely didn’t see Timo Meier waiting patiently on the doorstep. Meier quickly took advantage of the mistake, pouncing on the loose puck to make it 2-1 at 3:25 of the middle frame.

It was the one blemish on Varlamov’s record as he finished the evening with 23 saves on 24 shots.

Nelson’s goal gave the Islanders a two-goal cushion, which grew to three when rookie Kyle MacLean scored his fourth career goal at 6:17 of the third period.

“I’m very happy for him because all the hard work he’s put in has paid off,” Roy said of MacLean. “He’s got my vote of confidence. That was a huge goal for us.”

With the win over the Devils, the Islanders have officially locked themselves into third place in the Metropolitan Division and will meet the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs for the second season in a row.

But before they do so, the Islanders have one last game to play as they’ll meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in the regular season finale on Wednesday at UBS Arena.

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