Fitting that it was a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers that spelled the end of the Islanders season.
But even before falling 4-1 to the Flyers the Islanders were officially eliminated from contention with Buffalo’s 2-0 win over New Jersey.
21 year-old winger James Van Riemsdyk scored his first career hat trick to boost the Flyers over the Islanders for the 20th time in the last 21 games and retain their hold on first place in the Eastern Conference.
“We definitely owe them one for sure,” said goaltender Rick DiPietro, who gave up four goals in his second start back from missing six weeks with facial injuries.
Trailing the 8th-place Sabres by 13 points heading into last night’s game, it was a must-win for the Islanders to keep even the slimmest playoff hopes alive.
Several players said they were not aware of the exact elimination scenarios, but knew they had very little wriggle room.
“It’s been do or die for us for awhile,” center Josh Bailey said.
The Islanders didn’t get the chance to control their own destiny, however. With the Sabres win over the Devils, the Buffalo secured their 85th point, three points more than the maximum amount the Islanders can earn if they win out over the next six games.
It is the fourth straight year the Islanders will miss the playoffs.
“I hate to lose, whether we’re in the playoffs or out,” DiPietro said. “It still makes me sick to my stomach.
With only one win in the previous 20 games against the Flyers, the Islanders fell behind early in the first.
Philadelphia scored twice within 22 seconds and Van Riemsdyk tallied a pair to give the Flyers a 3-1 lead into the second period.
After Islander-killer Jeff Carter’s scored his 34th of the season right off the draw, Van Riemsdyk netted his first of the night on a rush at 8:33. Blake Comeau cut the Flyers’ lead in half with a backhander midway through the first, but Van Riemsdyk put another one past goaltender Rick DiPietro again at 13:25.
Riemsdyk’s third goal—which resulted in a surprising amount of hats thrown on the ice for a road game—was a slapshot from the slot at 9:15 in the third, the Flyers’ first power-play goal in six games.
Officially done? Yes. But according to Matt Moulson, they won’t stop fighting until the season is over.
“Eliminated or not, we still have a lot to prove, a lot to play for.”