There was a sound for sore ears on Long Island last night — a crowd of over 16,000 at Nassau Coliseum chanting for the Isles’ playoff chances.
That was the scene on Saturday as the Islanders beat the Lightning 4-2, their third straight home victory, putting them two points clear of Winnipeg for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — with a game in hand on the Jets.
“The coaching staff from the beginning said they think we have a playoff team and we know we do,” Matt Martin told the New York Post. “We just got to keep on rolling.”
Martin, Michael Grabner, Josh Bailey and Andrew MacDonald all scored for the Isles against Tampa Bay, a game they won despite being without the services of second-leading scorer Matt Moulson, who was a late scratch (illness).
The ‘We want playoffs’ chants (as reported by The Post) were a major theme on the night, as the Isles haven’t been to the postseason since 2007, the third-longest drought in the NHL.
Through the first part of the season, it looked like the drought would continue. The Isles were 8-11-2 after a loss to Toronto to close out February and looked to be in serious trouble.
But, things turned around.
Inspired play from John Tavares — the NHL’s 10th-leading scorer — and a bounce-back year from Brad Boyes has played a huge role, as have contributions throughout the lineup.
The Isles went 8-5-1 in March, are 3-1-0 in April and have finally started to win games at home, having ripped off three straight victories at Nassau against the Bolts, Jets and Panthers.
Not bad for a team that hasn’t eclipsed the 80-point plateau since making the postseason in 2006-07.
Just don’t expect the Isles to settle for what’s already been accomplished.
“We control our own destiny here, Martin explained. “We’re not looking at teams below us, we’re looking at teams ahead of us, and we’re trying to catch them.”