New York Islanders'Matt Moulson (C) celebrates his goal against the Winnipeg Jets with teammates John Tavares (L) and Brad Boyes (R)during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Uniondale, New York, April 2, 2013. (Photo : REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY))
The NHL regular season ends in about two weeks, but the race for the playoffs continues to be as close as it's ever been.
Three Western conference sides are three points out of eighth place with only 10 or so games to go. However the race in the East is more complex. The Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders are tied for sixth with 46 points while the New York Rangers are tied with the Winnipeg Jets for the eight seed. The New Jersey Devils are losing ground and are four points behind the Jets and Rangers with eight games to go. The Jets only have six games left to play, while the Rangers have two games in hand.
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The biggest surprise of the playoff picture is the New York Islanders. The team has been ridiculed by the media for years thanks to questionable contract signings and an embarrassing arena situation that has finally been resolved. The team got off to a mediocre start to the season but has since battled back into a playoff position with an 8-1-1 run. However, the team established itself as a legit playoff side when it took down the Boston Bruins on the road on Thursday.
The Islanders lost their first two matches against Boston in poor fashion. The first game back in January saw the Islanders blow a 2-1 lead and fall apart in the third period to an aggressive squad. In the two squad's only meeting at the Nassau Coliseum (which was broadcast on national television) in February, the Islanders were manhandled in a 4-1 defeat. Despite the team's current run, many felt that the match against a Stanley Cup contender like the Bruins was a great litmus test for the team's status.
The Islanders were outplayed in the first period but wound up getting a goal with 20 second remaining from Jose Bailey. In the second, the team came out aggressive and dominated the Bruins for long stretches. Boston would tie the game on Tyler Seguin powerplay goal but the score would change again when Bailey raced down the left wing and fired a shot that snuck through Boston keeper Tuuka Rask.
In the third period, the Islanders played a tight defensive game that limited the Bruins and wore them down.
"Every win is big at this point in the season. We needed to get one here," Bailey said. "It's been a little while. I thought we played a great game from start to finish, and obviously had some great goaltending."
"[Boston] is good hockey team," Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano noted. "It's a good win for our club. We struggled with them this year, so to come into this building and get the win is a good feeling."
"Our team is playing hard," Capuano added about the effort. "You get rewarded when you play hard and play within the team concept. We gave up the one power play goal where we were running around, but the effort is there every night."