“At the end of the day, we’re just looking for wins, and whether it’s our goaltender stepping up or our big players stepping up, we just need to rack up the points.”
After beating the Jets, the Islanders now have a three-point gap between them and the second wild-card spot, which the Florida Panthers hold right now.
There’s been a common theme over these last three wins: team leaders coming through in critical moments.
Yes, the Islanders have outscored their opponents 7-0 in their last four third periods, with five of the six goals coming from the Islanders’ top six, but it’s the little plays late that have stood out.
In the 5-4 comeback win over the Penguins last Friday, Brock Nelson tied the game in the third period before finding Zach Parise for a tap-in with under three minutes to play.
In those final three minutes, the Islanders blocked four Penguin shots, with Bo Horvat getting in front of two shots, one in a six-on-five situation with Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan pulling his goalie.
In Monday’s 4-2 win over the Penguins, another comeback, the Islanders blocked three shots in the final minute and a half.
Zach Parise stepped in front of an Evgeni Malkin shot, which directly led to Nelson’s empty-net goal to seal the victory.
— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) February 21, 2023
And on Wednesday, there were many big-time, under-the-radar plays from New York on the way to their 2-1 win over the Jets.
In the final 15 seconds of the Jets’ final power-play of the night after an Otto Koivula trip at 12:51 of the third period, Horvat skated with the puck through the neutral zone.
Rather than just dumping the puck, the 27-year-old veteran elected to hold onto the puck and go to the boards as he pinned the rubber, killing the remaining time off the clock and preserving the 1-0 lead.
Kyle Palmieri did something similar with under three minutes to play. In a spot where he could have thrown the puck in deep, Palmieri read the situation and saw that he could get around Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo.
In a shifty-like motion, Palmieri protected the puck as he tried to cut to the net, which forced DeMelo to take a slashing penalty with 2:31 to play in the game.
The Islanders did not score on the two-minute power play, and before the penalty expired, Jets head coach Rick Bowness pulled his netminder and got a few shorthanded looks on goal.
But like we saw on Monday, Parise put his body on the line blocking two shots as the clock dwindled down.
“We did what we had to do to come out with two points,” Parise said. “It doesn’t matter how you do it. We took care of business.”
These are the plays that are going to be the difference between playing hockey after game 82 or packing up and heading home for the summer.