WASHINGTON — Valtteri Filppula was expected to miss four weeks with a hyperextended left elbow. Instead, he returned to the Islanders’ lineup in less than three weeks and will be available for the start of the playoffs.
The third-line center marked his return by scoring the first two goals in the Islanders’ 3-0 win over the Capitals on Saturday night at Capital One Arena in the regular-season finale.
“It’s nice,” said Filppula, who missed eight games after exiting a 5-0 loss to the Bruins at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on March 19. “I was just really happy I had a chance to play one. Just to get moving a little bit more and have a few game-like situations, I think it will be a good help. Goals are a bonus, but I was really happy I got healthy enough to play.”
Filppula’s return allowed Leo Komarov to move back to his natural spot on right wing on a line with Anthony Beauvillier after centering it for four games following a hand injury suffered by Filppula’s replacement, Tanner Fritz.
“It’s a little bit of a comfort zone for us,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “Leo has done a fabulous job of going in that center ice role, an area we’re a little lean. So if it happens to anyone else, we know Leo can do it.”
Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss will share the Jennings Trophy as the Islanders allowed a league-low 196 goals. The Islanders are the first team since the Ottawa Senators in 1918-19 to go from worst to first in that category.
The William M. Jennings Trophy is given to the goalie or goalies on a team allowing the fewest goals who have played a minimum of 25 games each.
Billy Smith and Roland Melanson, in 1982-83, were the only previous Islanders goalies to win the trophy.
“It’s a great accomplishment for the whole team,” Greiss said.
Greiss finished 23-14-2 with five shutouts, a 2.28 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. Lehner was 25-13-5 with six shutouts, a 2.13 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. Both set career bests in GAA and save percentage and Lehner had a career high in wins.
Defensemen Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock and forwards Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Komarov played in all 82 games. Lee’s ironman streak reached 200 games, with Nelson at 177 and Barzal at 161.