Jenny Rohl/ALOST


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY — It was fitting in more ways than one that “Living on a Prayer” blared in the New York Islanders locker room soon after their win on Monday night. Of course, the game they played was in New Jersey, the home of the band who pretty much made the aforementioned song the Garden State’s unofficial anthem, Bon Jovi. But a couple of months ago, it felt as if it would take an answered prayer for the Islanders to make the postseason, and their dire position led to a coaching change and an air of desperation.

Similar to the lyrics of the hit song, however, the Islanders held on what they got, and gave an improbable playoff run a shot — one that officially was a success after tonight.

Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri each had a goal and an assist for New Yor, who defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-1 inside the Prudential Center to not only clinch a playoff spot, but nail down the third spot in the Metropolitan Division standings. Semyon Varlamov made 23 saves for New York, who will now participate in the postseason for the fifth time in the past six seasons.

Any thoughts of the postseason bordered on laughable after New York fired head coach Lane Lambert and hired goaltending legend and former Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy. After an uptick in the team’s play soon after Roy’s hiring, the Islanders hit what seemed to be a season-crippling rut last month, losing six in the row from March 11-21, a stretch in which New York earned just one point and lost five of the contests by a three-goal margin or worse.

From that point, the Islanders seemed to channel Bon Jovi once more as it approached the home stretch: You live for the fight when that’s all that you’ve got.

After that disastrous March stretch, New York is now 9-2-1, with a six-game winning streak to begin April putting themselves in an envious position to complete the rags-to-riches run. After losing in a shootout to the now Presidents’ Trophy-winning New York Rangers on Saturday, the Isles came into their game with their other New York City-area rival one win away from the postseason, and not even the fact that the Devils had beaten New York each of the three times they had squared off this season could stop the Islanders from completing the job.

“It wasn’t the prettiest of hockey games, [but] we capitalized on our opportunities,” Islanders forward and captain Anders Lee said. “But something like this happens; we put ourselves in the playoffs and it’s a culmination of 81 games of work and everything in between. So guys should be proud of it, we’ll enjoy it here for a little bit.”

Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored on a 2-on-1 at the 12:22 mark of the first period for the first goal of the game before Palmieri, the former Devil, tipped in a point shot from Mike Reilly on the power play just over three minutes later to double New York’s lead. A Timo Meier goal cut the Islanders’ lead in half before Nelson tallied late in the second period to reestablish New York’s two-goal advantage. Kyle MacLean closed out the scoring with a tally 6:17 into the third period.

“They played some very good hockey down the stretch and they were resilient,” Roy said about his club. “They worked together. I think we learned how to win and what I love is, again, tonight it was a 2-1 score and I felt like we were calm and re didn’t change our game and that’s a really good sign.”

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Tags : National Hockey LeagueNew Jersey DevilsNew York Islanders

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