Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov looks on during third period NHL hockey action...

Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov looks on during third period NHL hockey action in Ottawa, Thursday, March 5, 2020. Credit: AP/Fred Chartrand

After an overnight flight home from Ottawa following the Islanders’ fifth straight loss, Barry Trotz woke up Friday morning with the realization that his team still held a playoff spot.


The Islanders have dropped three straight in regulation, including Thursday night’s 4-3 loss to the Senators, who are out of the playoff race.

The Islanders are in an 0-3-2 skid, are 2-7-2 since Casey Cizikas (left leg laceration) was injured and are 10-13-5 since top-pair defenseman Adam Pelech (Achilles tendon) was lost for the season.

Yet the Islanders still hold the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, two points ahead of the surging Rangers, who have played one extra game, and three points ahead of the Hurricanes, who have played one fewer game. The Islanders will face the Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.

“That’s the incredible thing about the whole thing is we’re in a playoff spot, and we earned that,” Trotz said after Friday’s practice in East Meadow.

Of course, that the Islanders are clinging to a playoff spot is a vestige of their franchise-record 17-game point streak (15-0-2) from Oct. 12-Nov. 23 that produced a record of 16-3-2. They are 19-20-6 since.

“I said to them, ‘I didn’t feel we were going to win a game way back when,’  ” Trotz said of the Islanders’ 1-3-0 start to the season. “We turned it around and never lost for 17.

“We’re probably where we should be, based on taking the whole year,” Trotz added. “We had a strong front end. The back end hasn’t been as good and now we have a chance to be in a playoff race.”

The Islanders’ success last season — they reached the second round of the playoffs in their first season under Trotz — was predicated on their strong defensive performance. They allowed an NHL-low 196 goals with a goal differential of plus-32, backed by the goalie tandem of Robin Lehner — the Vezina Trophy finalist who left via free agency — and Thomas Greiss.

This season, with Semyon Varlamov replacing Lehner, the Islanders are tied for eighth in the league with 185 goals against. But their goal differential is only plus-1.

They have allowed at least four goals in their last three games and in four of their last five. Greiss has been pulled from two of his last three starts.

“We’re giving up a lot of goals lately,” said Varlamov, who likely should have stopped Anthony Duclair’s short-side goal and Mikkel Boedker’s shorthanded backhander in Ottawa. “When you give up three, four, five goals, you can’t be happy about it. You’ve got to fix it as soon as possible. As a goalie, you have to give your team a chance to win. You need to make that extra save. That’s our job. I’m not talking about Greisser. I’m talking about myself. I haven’t the past couple of games.”

Notes & quotes: Cal Clutterbuck practiced after missing the third period Thursday with an unspecified issue. Trotz indicated he might be “doubtful” to play against the Hurricanes .  .  .   Tom Kuhnhackl practiced and Trotz said he should be available. He missed the Ottawa game with an unspecified injury.

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