NASHVILLE, Tenn — Doug Weight did not quite break into song or dance on Tuesday morning, but he did articulate the goal for the Islanders with a musical reference in Music City:
“Yeah, ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ stayin’ alive,” the coach said. “We have to win a game.”
Such was the state of their precarious playoff prospects entering their game against the Predators, and it only got worse when the Bruins and Senators won before the Islanders’ game was over.
But somehow, some way, they lived to fight another day, by the barest possible margin.
Knowing that anything other than a victory would end their season, they beat the Predators, 2-1, in overtime when Thomas Hickey snapped a shot from the right circle past Pekka Rinne’s blocker side 1:25 into overtime.
It was Hickey’s fifth career overtime game-winner, and came at the end of a night on which for the first time in his NHL career the defenseman played left wing — emergency duty because five of the Islanders’ six injured players were forwards.
“It was cool, it was fun, it was challenging,” he said afterward.
Said Weight, “He was just solid, and it looked like he’s played some wing in the past.” He had not, at least not since a couple of shifts Hickey could recall from his junior hockey days.
Back to the playoff picture: The odds of the Islanders making it remain slim, at best. But they will visit the Hurricanes in Raleigh on Thursday with something to play for, thanks to a three-game winning streak, all with Jaroslav Halak in goal.
“Obviously, I’m happy that I’m playing right now,” said Halak, recently recalled from the minors. He assisted on Hickey’s game-winner, by the way. “I’m just glad I was the one who touched it first,” he said.
Weight knew midway through the third period that both Boston and Ottawa had won, and that meant that nothing short of two points would do.
His players were too busy to focus on the out-of-town scoreboard. They knew in general terms that losing would be a very bad idea.
“There’s not a chance that we could afford to give away any points,” Hickey said. “There was no scoreboard watching. But I knew if I we got two, we’re still alive.”
The Predators scored first, at 7:03 of the second period, when Colin Wilson raced down the left side and found Mike Fisher in front. Fisher shot the puck through Johnny Boychuk’s legs and past Halak.
Brock Nelson, who had a strong game overall, tied it 1:32 into the third period when he snapped a shot from the left circle over Rinne.
The Islanders put the heat on Rinne in the final minutes of regulation time and had the better of the chances in overtime before Hickey scored what he called “an ugly one” because he had to rush his shot as the puck rolled on him.
The Bruins have clinched a playoff spot, so as Weight said there now are only two teams to root against: the Senators (94 points) and Maple Leafs (93). The Islanders have 88 points with three to play.
While the Islanders are playing the Hurricanes on Thursday, the Senators face the Bruins and the Maple Leafs meet the Lightning.
“We earned this win,” Weight said. “We deserved it . . . I’ll be proud for a couple of hours, and now we have to get back to work tomorrow. You never know.”