The Islanders were a bitter disappointment to two fan bases Monday night.
In what has been a foregone conclusion the past two weeks, the Islanders officially were eliminated from playoff contention with a 3-0 loss to the Panthers at Barclays Center.
Meanwhile, the Devils received no help from their geographical rivals as the Panthers, with a game in hand, crept within one point of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.
“The odds just kept getting worse and worse with every loss,” said captain John Tavares, who could exit via free agency on July 1. “We just sealed our fate. It’s tough to know you’re not going to be playing postseason hockey.”
Chants for general manager Garth Snow’s firing mixed with boos as the last-place Islanders (31-35-10) lost their third straight to fall to 2-10-4 since Feb. 19. They went 1-4-0 on the homestand and will miss the playoffs for the second straight season after beating the Panthers in the first round in 2016 for the franchise’s first series win since 1993.
Part of the Islanders’ disappointment is knowing they squandered a strong start to the season. A 5-4 shootout win at Florida on Dec. 4 left them 16-8-2.
“We’ve put the puck in the net and produced offensively,” Tavares said. “But we give up as many opportunities the other way and some of the areas defensively don’t look too pretty on the stat sheet, either.”
“It’s extremely disappointing,” defenseman Adam Pelech added. “Going into the year and especially getting off to a good start, we had a lot of confidence in this room, and it’s just too bad the way things played out.”
The Islanders, who will play in Ottawa on Tuesday night, were shut out for only the third time this season and finished the homestand with one goal in their last two games.
“It’s tough,” said coach Doug Weight, completing his first full season. “It’s tough for us and it’s not good enough. It’s tough for the fans. It’s tough for everybody involved.
“All we can say is we’re going to be better. We’re going to be better soon. We’ve got to find a way to make our team better quickly and I think we have the ingredients and we have the drive and we’re going to work at it. You can’t ignore it.”
Starting with a 4-1 win at Barclays Center on Jan. 30, the Panthers (39-28-7) have gone 20-6-1.
If the Devils do not make the playoffs this season, it will mark the first time since that franchise moved to New Jersey from Colorado in 1982 that all three metropolitan-area teams have fallen short of reaching the postseason.
Panthers goalie James Reimer made 32 saves in earning his fourth shutout of the season.
Christopher Gibson, who had been pulled in two of his previous three starts, stopped 38 shots in his seventh appearance of the season for the Islanders.
Keith Yandle’s blue-line shot gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 11:38 of the first period.
That became 2-0 at 1:47 of the second period on Nick Bjugstad’s power-play laser from the right circle.
Evgenii Dadonov’s feed from the left boards deflected in off defenseman Brandon Davidson to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead at 6:09 of the second period.