The Islanders would just as soon forget the very end of this regular season, which now is history after a 2-1 shootout loss to the lottery-bound Sabres Friday night.
The single point means the Isles still will be watching and waiting Saturday to see what the Rangers and Senators do before booking their trip to Pittsburgh as the No. 8 seed. The only way the Isles will avoid the Penguins is with a Rangers regulation loss or two regulation Senators losses. Otherwise, the Isles will face top-seeded Pittsburgh starting next week.
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"If we're going to play like this, we're not going to have much of a chance in the playoffs. We all know that and understand that," said Evgeni Nabokov, who made 21 saves and was beaten once in regulation and once in the shootout. "We can't be satisfied with the last few games, but it's a new season starting."
The Isles played with tenacity and focus during the 11-1-2 run that propelled them into playoff position. Starting with the night they clinched, in Raleigh on Tuesday, they have been losing too many puck battles and not generating enough on the power play to keep the ball rolling.
They needed a fluke goal by Keith Aucoin 7:26 into the third to get even. Ryan Miller, possibly playing his final game in a Sabres uniform, got caught hesitating in an attempt to play a long dump-in and Aucoin snapped a shot past him when the goaltender was halfway out of the cage.
But the Isles failed in too many other aspects to drop to 0-1-2 in their final three games of the season, most notably on the power play. They didn't put a shot on goal during a 54-second five-on-three in the second period while trailing. There was a ton more pressure during an overtime power play, but Miller (31 saves) stood tall.
"You get those opportunities in a game like that, you've got to capitalize," Mark Streit said of the power play, which went 1-for-17 in the final five games. "We've got the skills and the capability, we just have to be better."
Jack Capuano bristled at any thought of negativity after Thursday's 2-1 regulation loss in Philadelphia. His message after Friday night's single point was similarly positive.
"I told the guys they deserve this opportunity to move forward now," Capuano said. "The past is the past and now it's a real exciting time. We played pretty good hockey the last six, seven weeks. It was a long trip to close out the season and now it's a new start."
It's just a matter of whom the Isles will start against. If the Devils can play spoiler against the Rangers, it likely will be a No. 7 seed and a series with the Bruins or Canadiens. With big help from the Devils, Flyers and Bruins (the latter two are the Senators' opponents this weekend), the Isles would open against the Caps in the No. 6 spot.
One player knows what needs to improve when the serious stuff begins.
"Maybe it's a little bit of a reality check," Streit said. "We don't pay attention to the details and we're in trouble. Especially when the playoffs begin."
Notes & quotes: D Lubomir Visnovsky was a healthy scratch, sitting out to rest up for the postseason, according to Capuano.