Isles playoff push continues in Philadelphia
Can Move Within One Point of Playoff Spot Against Flyers Thursday
After rallying for a thrilling 6-5 overtime win over Toronto on Monday night at the Barclays Center, the playoff-hopeful New York Islanders are headed to Philadelphia on Thursday with a chance to move closer to their ultimate goal.
Andrew Ladd’s tying tally with 1:29 left in regulation set up Brock Nelson for the eventual game-winner in the extra session as the resurgent Islanders moved within three points of the Flyers for the second and final wild-card spot in the ongoing Eastern Conference postseason chase.
“Down the stretch, every win’s huge,” admitted Isles forward Josh Bailey after registering his 11th goal of the season to go with assists on the final two goals of the evening before a crowd of 11,828 at Downtown’s home for NHL hockey.
“I think especially tonight, the last two games obviously we didn’t find a way to get the points we wanted,” Bailey added, noting New York’s back-to-back one-goal losses before this rousing victory over the Maple Leafs.
Nelson finished with two goals and an assist, Ryan Strome added a tally and a helper and Thomas Greiss stopped 27 shots as the Isles (23-18-10) improved to 7-1-2 in their last 10 games to continue what once appeared to be an improbable push toward their third consecutive playoff berth.
“Tonight, we found a way,” Bailey said. “You don’t want anything to start snowballing, but we keep a pretty even keel in here. We’re refocused for every game and we’ll do the same tomorrow.”
NHL Rookie of the Year frontrunner Auston Matthews was one of five first-year players to score for Toronto, which fell into a tie with New York at 58 points. But the Maple Leafs currently rank third in the Atlantic Division race, a spot they must maintain to stay out of the wild-card fray.
“I think you’re disappointed,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s always good to get a point on the road. If it was 2-1, I’d probably wouldn’t feel like I do right now. When you give up six goals, especially some of the mistakes we made defensively … for me, to give up free ones, just tap-ins by our net, is not good enough. We’ve got to get that fixed in a hurry.”
The Isles have just one regulation loss since Doug Weight took over head-coaching duties from Jack Capuano back on Jan. 19.
Philadelphia has actually aided New York’s cause over the past week, dropping three of its last four games, including Monday’s 2-0 setback to visiting Buffalo.
With a win Thursday over the Flyers, the Isles, who have suffered two losses to Philadelphia earlier this season, one via overtime and one in a shootout, will find themselves on the precipice of their goal.
“There was never doubt in here. We never got down,” insisted Nelson, who accepted a cross-ice feed from Bailey and beat Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen on the blocker side with the night’s 11th and final tally.
“There’s a lot of belief on the bench right now,” added Weight, who still wears the interim head coaching tag despite guiding this team back into serious contention.
“They feel good about themselves and when you can find ways to win games like this, it’s crucial.”
Following their showdown in Philly, the Isles will head to Ottawa on Saturday afternoon before hosting Colorado here Sunday at 6 p.m.
Isle Have Another: The Isles will have a chance to complete a three-game season sweep of the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Valentine’s Day. They won the first meeting, 5-1, at Barclays on Oct. 30 … New York will play 21 of its final 31 games on the road, hoping to improve on a 6-10-4 record away from Barclays Center … Ladd, one of the scapegoats of the Isles’ slow start to the season, has come on of late, registering four goals and an assist in his last five contests. “We try to preach that no matter what happens in a game, we are resilient,” Ladd said following Monday’s win … Bailey has been piling up the points at an even greater rate, amassing eight (five goals, three assists) in his last six games, including a goal in each of his last three contests.
In local high school sports news, Brooklyn Friends senior Brendan Greenberg became just the fourth player in Blue Pride history to record his 1,000th career point in a victory last Wednesday afternoon over the Garden School on Pearl Street.
Greenberg, who will be attending Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota this coming fall, scored a game-high 25 points, boosting his four-year total to 1,009, as BFS prepares for the Independent School Athletic League playoffs.
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