The Pittsburgh Penguins will play for their playoff lives in their regular season finale against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
A win in any fashion over the New York Islanders on Friday, and the Penguins would’ve clinched a post-season berth. Instead, on home ice, Pittsburgh fell by a final score of 3-1, failing for now to lock up a spot in the Stanley Cup tournament.
According to the NHL, the Islanders will now face the Washington Capitals in the opening round of the playoffs. It will be the seventh post-season meeting between the two clubs.
The Penguins held the edge in shots over the Islanders, but minus a goal from an unlikely source in Rob Scuderi, they were unable to beat Jaroslav Halak.
An early turning point came before the midway point of the first period. Pittsburgh thought it scored to take the lead, only the video review was inconclusive and the call of no-goal on the ice stood. Eight seconds later, the Islanders opened the scoring on a short-handed goal from Casey Cizikas.
Halak made 37 saves for the win. John Tavares, with his 37th goal of the season, scored the winner less than three minutes into the third period.
Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic left the game with an undisclosed injury and did not return.
There are now three teams fighting for the final two playoff spots in the East. All three teams are in action — on the road — Saturday.
The Penguins still hold the final Wild Card spot in the East, with 96 points. They’re on the road to face the Sabres.
Trailing the Penguins by a single point are the Boston Bruins, who conclude their regular season on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Ottawa Senators, at 97 points, hold the first Wild Card spot and will play the Philadelphia Flyers.