Amazingly, Islanders still have shot at playoffs
DALLAS — The chances of the Islanders pulling off a miraculous April run to a playoff spot remain slim. But not nearly as slim as they were just a week ago.
They will continue a five-game road trip against the Stars on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center trailing the Capitals by 11 points for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot and having played one fewer game.
They were 19 points behind when president and general manager Lou Lamoriello stood pat at the trade deadline on March 21 and the deficit was still 19 points as late as March 28.
But the Islanders (32-27-9) have won a season-high four straight and are 11-3-1 since March 10 to keep their faint hopes of a fourth straight playoff berth alive.
The final three games of this road trip — which opened with a 3-0 win over the playoff-bound Rangers on Friday night — should be pretty telling in whether the Islanders mounting a playoff push can become reality.
The Stars (39-26-3), who are 21-9-1 at home, are one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders then face the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes on Friday night before concluding the trip on Saturday night against the Blues, currently third in the Central Division.
Overall, the Islanders are 7-21-3 against the teams holding playoff spots on Monday and had been outscored 102-63 in those games.
But the Islanders did beat the Blues, 2-1, at UBS Arena on March 5 and the visiting Stars, 4-2, on March 19.
They also face the Capitals, who have lost four of their last six, in a home-and-home series the final week of the regular season on April 26-28. Any combination of 17 points either lost by the Islanders or gained by the Capitals will result in their playoff elimination.
The Islanders are coming off Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 win over the Devils as Jean-Gabriel Pageau notched his first hat trick as an Islander, snapping a 13-game goal drought, and linemate Kyle Palmieri added a goal and two assists.
Getting balanced production beyond Brock Nelson’s line with Anders Lee and Anthony Beauvillier will be crucial through this stretch.
“If you have a one-prong offense, it’s pretty easy to stop,” coach Barry Trotz said. “A few nights ago, Nellie’s line was going really good and then Barzy’s line [Mathew Barzal, Oliver Wahlstrom and Zach Parise] got a few goals for us against the Rangers. [Sunday], it was Pager’s line that had an impact in the game. That’s how we win.”
Notes & quotes: Goalie Semyon Varlamov was named the NHL’s third star of the week after going 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average, a .952 save percentage and one shutout as he started consecutive games for the first time this season and on back-to-back nights for the first time as an Islander. The Oilers’ Connor McDavid (five goals, three assists) was named the first star and the Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov (five goals, three assists) was the second star.