Islanders beat Preds 2-1 in OT to preserve playoff hopes
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The New York Islanders still are scrapping and fighting for every point possible to preserve their very slim playoff hopes for another game.
Nashville already has its postseason berth, and the Islanders took advantage of the Predators being just a bit more relaxed.
Thomas Hickey scored 1:25 into overtime, and the Islanders beat Nashville 2-1 Tuesday night to stay in the race for the Eastern Conference’s second wild card.
“There was no way we could afford to give away any points,” Hickey said. “There was no scoreboard watching and we’ll reevaluate, but if we got two then I know we’re alive.”
Brock Nelson also scored for the Islanders, and goalie Jaroslav Halak made 22 saves as they won their third straight.
“A big goal by Hickey there to keep this thing rolling,” Nelson said.
The Islanders came in with captain John Tavares missing his second straight game with a lower-body injury. They outshot Nashville 32-23 to ruin the Predators’ regular season home finale.
Mike Fisher scored a goal for Nashville, which lost four of its last five.
The Islanders moved within five points of Toronto for the second wild card after both Boston and Ottawa won earlier Tuesday night to move up the Atlantic Division standings.
Nashville picked up a point to tie Calgary briefly for the first wild card in the West.
Hickey won the game for New York by stopping the puck in the left circle, then beating Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne stick-side for his fourth goal this season.
“I was joking with (assistant coach Greg) Cronin after, I was getting mad at him because I don’t know why he put a forward on D for overtime, but it worked,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said of having Hickey on the ice.
The Predators clinched their third straight playoff berth Sunday night, and they came into this game with a very slim chance at third in the Central Division and a better shot at catching and passing Calgary.
“If it wasn’t for Pekka — he was unbelievable — we wouldn’t have even gotten a point,” Fisher said. “We need to be a little bit better and hit the road here and get a couple of good games here going into the playoffs. We’ve got to be better for sure.”
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette started Miika Salomaki in his first game since Oct. 15 after an injury kept him out almost all season. Defenseman Brad Hunt, picked up off waivers Jan. 17 from St. Louis, also made his Nashville debut.
“When you clinch and you get that X next to your name, you want to come out and play the same way,” Laviolette said. “I do think it dropped a little bit. It didn’t have the same bite and the same feel that say the Minnesota game and the St. Louis game had.”
The Islanders found themselves on the edge of elimination after Boston clinched a berth with a 4-0 win over Tampa Bay just as New York went into the second intermission trailing 1-0. Then Ottawa also won, beating Detroit 2-0. A loss by Toronto also helped.
Nashville took a 1-0 lead when Colin Wilson skated up the left side and sent a cross-ice pass back toward Fisher who beat Halak with a wrister for his 18th goal this season at 7:03 of the second.
Nelson tied it up for the Islanders just after Nashville killed off a penalty, beating Rinne with a wrister from the left circle at 1:32 of the third.
NOTES: The Islanders improved to 8-12 in overtime this season. ... The Predators now are 28-1-6 when leading after two periods. They also fell to 24-3-8 when scoring first. .. The Predators sold out their home finale for the 41st sellout of the season, the first time the franchise has sold out every game in a season. ... Salomaki played in the first two games for Nashville before getting hurt.
Islanders: Visit Carolina on Thursday night.
Predators: Visit Dallas on Thursday night.