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Apr 10, 2024 8:53 pm

Islanders not looking past Habs in late-season meeting

new york islanders

With four games left in the regular season, the New York Islanders are in control of their playoff destiny — and aware that this is no time to relax, especially with an opponent well-versed in playing spoiler next on the schedule.

The Islanders will look to continue their timely winning streak on Thursday night when they face the Montreal Canadiens in the finale of a three-game homestand in Elmont, N.Y.

Both teams were off Wednesday after earning wins on Tuesday. The Islanders withstood a furious second-period surge by the New York Rangers to record a 4-2 victory, while the host Canadiens further damaged the Philadelphia Flyers’ playoff hopes with a 9-3 rout.

The win was the fifth straight for the Islanders (36-27-15, 87 points), who solidified their grip on third place in the Metropolitan Division while also keeping the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference in play should they stumble in the standings.

New York is two points ahead of the Washington Capitals, who occupy the second wild card and are in fourth place in the Metropolitan entering Wednesday. The Islanders are three points clear of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, who are tied for ninth in the East.

All four teams have four games left. The Islanders and Penguins are scheduled to play one another in the regular-season finale in Elmont next Wednesday.

But New York, which endured a 2-7-1 stretch immediately before its current winning streak, received more reminders Tuesday of the delicate nature of its position.

The Islanders raced out to a 3-0 lead before being outshot 22-12 in the final two periods on Tuesday. However, Anders Lee sealed New York’s victory with an empty-netter with six seconds remaining in the third.

“There’s no relief until you see an ‘X’ besides your team’s name,” Islanders center Bo Horvat said, referencing the symbol used in the standings to denote playoff teams. “Every game matters. Every point matters. And we’ve got to get the wins here.”

The Canadiens (30-36-12, 72 points) will miss the playoffs for the third straight season and for the fifth time in the past seven years. But Montreal has managed to impact the playoff race by going 4-4-0 since March 26, a span in which all of its wins have come against teams either headed for the postseason or angling for a spot.

The Canadiens edged the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on March 26, defeated the Flyers 4-1 two days later and beat the Florida Panthers 5-3 on April 2 before Tuesday’s lopsided win, where Juraj Slafkovsky became the second-youngest player in franchise history to record a hat trick.

Slafkovsky pulled off the feat at 20 years, 10 days old, behind Stephane Richer (19 years, 283 days old on March 17, 1986).

The win by Montreal — which scored its most goals since a 10-2 win over the Panthers on April 29, 2022 — dropped the Flyers four points behind the Islanders and two points behind the Capitals. Philadelphia has just three games left.

“Too bad we’re out of the running this year, but it’s good that we’re building our game,” Slafkovsky said.

–Field Level Media

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