The New York Islanders snapped a four-game losing streak and crawled back into sole possession of a playoff spot Friday night.
But even minutes after the victory, head coach Barry Trotz knew the Islanders wouldn’t have much time to exhale and enjoy their secure standing.
The Islanders will look to once again break a tie for the Eastern Conference wild-card spots Sunday afternoon, when they continue a three-game homestand by hosting the San Jose Sharks in Uniondale, N.Y.
The Islanders were off Saturday following 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night. The Sharks will be completing a back-to-back set after falling to the host New York Rangers, 3-2, on Saturday night.
The win by the Islanders came following an 0-4 road trip in which they were outscored 11-2, increased their points total to 74 and vaulted them ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets in the race for the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.
But on Saturday night, the Hurricanes beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3, and the Blue Jackets fell to the Nashville Predators, 4-3, in a shootout to create a three-way tie for the two spots. New York has one game in hand on Carolina and three in hand on Columbus.
“You’re only as good as your last game,” Trotz said following the victory. “And today we were able to find the back of the net. You’ve got to stay on task. It’s not going to get any easier.”
Each of the Islanders’ opponents on the homestand are residing outside of a playoff spot. While the Sharks have the third-fewest points in the Western Conference and have lost three in a row, they have outshot the Rangers, Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils by a margin of 115-86 during the losing streak.
And after hosting the Sharks, the Islanders are scheduled to face the scorching Rangers, who have won seven of eight to move within four points of the wild-card spots.
“We’ve just got to worry about having a good start (Sunday), and we’ll see if we can just build from one game,” Trotz said.
The Sharks had a particularly good start Saturday, when they outshot the Rangers by a whopping 22-3 margin in the first period.
But rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin, who improved to 9-1-0 in his first 10 NHL starts, allowed just one goal in the period, and San Jose squandered a 2-1 lead during a span of a little more than 10 minutes bridging the second and third periods.
“It’s disappointing,” Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner said afterward. “We’re two games into this road trip, and I thought we put ourselves in a chance to at least get points out of each game, and we didn’t. And that’s where we are right now as a team.”
Joe Thornton scored both goals in defeat, after he entered with just two goals total on the season.
The Sharks will be looking to sweep the season series after earning a 2-1 overtime win in San Jose on Nov. 23. That marked the final game of the Islanders’ franchise-record 17-game point streak (15-0-2).
–Field Level Media