Tavares scores 35th goal, but Jackets late rally keeps Isles slump going

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The New York Islanders haven’t won back-to-back games since Feb. 24-27. They came close to ending that slump tonight, but ultimately suffered a 4-3 shootout loss to Columbus.

At no point prior to the skills competition did the Blue Jackets lead in this game. Enforcer Eric Boulton, playing in his 644th career contest, was the unconventional source of the Islanders’ first goal just 2:54 minutes into the game. John Tavares gave the Islanders a 2-1 edge in the second period by netting his 35th goal of the season:

The Islanders took a 3-1 lead early in the third period, but Columbus rallied back with Ryan Johansen tying the contest just 3:43 minutes prior to the end of regulation time.

The skills competition proved to be one-sided with Mark Letestu and Johansen each beating Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak to end the shootout after two rounds.

With eight straight wins, Columbus has tied its franchise record, although the squad won’t make the playoffs this season regardless. The Islanders almost certainly will, but they are coasting off of their past success. After this loss, New York is 4-7-4 since its last two-game winning streak.

Goalie nods: Slumping Elliott sits, Allen starts for Blues

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All the latest from the blue paint…

St. Louis turns to Allen

With Brian Elliott having lost four straight and the Blues winning just once in their last six, Ken Hitchcock will turn things over to Jake Allen tonight for a tilt against Calgary.

Allen — who was in goal for St. Louis’ last win, a 3-2 OT decision over Pittsburgh — could potentially throw a wrench into the Blues’ plans of Elliott being their definitive playoff starter. Elliott hasn’t played well lately, going 1-3-1 with a .902 save percentage over his last five games, and Hitchcock did leave the door open slightly when asked if Ellliott could be usurped as the postseason No. 1.

“Obviously if [Elliott] doesn’t play well at all, then we’ve got to reassess it like any team does,” he explained, per the Post-Dispatch.

As for Allen, he’s gunning for his 20th win tonight and is coming off two pretty solid performances, stopping 24 of 26 shots in the aforementioned win over Pittsburgh, and 23 of 25 in a 2-1 OT loss to Detroit on Mar. 22.

For Calgary, Jonas Hiller will start in goal.

Elsewhere…

Isles at Jackets: Jaroslav Halak vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Caps at Habs: Braden Holtby vs. Carey Price

Bolts at Sens: Ben Bishop vs. Andrew Hammond

Bruins at Wings: (No Boston starter yet) vs. Petr Mrazek

‘Canes at Panthers: Anton Khudobin vs. Roberto Luongo

Rangers at Wild: Henrik Lundqvist vs. Devan Dubnyk

Canucks at ‘Hawks: (No Vancouver starter yet) vs. Corey Crawford

Oilers at Kings: No starters for either team yet.

Johnny Hockey named NHL’s rookie of the month for March

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The NHL’s rookie scoring leader is also its rookie of the month.

On Wednesday, the league announced that Calgary freshman Johnny Gaudreau took home the honors for March after putting up 16 points in 15 games, keeping the Flames afloat in the Western Conference playoff chase.

More:

Gaudreau edged Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone (4-11—15 in 16 GP), Boston Bruins teammates Ryan Spooner (7-7—14 in 15 GP) and David Pastrnak (3-10—13 in 15 GP), Carolina Hurricanes center Victor Rask (3-8—11 in 15 GP), and Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (6-2-0, 2.50 GAA, .918 SV%) for the honor.

Gaudreau, a fourth-round selection (104th overall) by the Flames in the 2011 NHL Draft, recorded at least one point in 10 of his 15 March appearances, highlighted by four multi-point efforts. Those included his fourth career multi-goal game in a 6-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks March 11 (2-0—2) and his fourth career game-winning goal in a 5-3 triumph over the Dallas Stars March 30 (1-1—2).

Gaudreau joins Tanner Pearson (October), Filip Forsberg (November), John Klingberg (January) and Anders Lee (February) as this season’s rookie of the month winners. He also looks to be a lock as one of this year’s three Calder Trophy finalists, along with Forbsberg and Aaron Ekblad.

Isles’ Tavares: ‘We needed two points, especially at home’

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The New York Islanders moved into the second seed in the Metropolitan Division with a 5-4 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

The Islanders win coupled with the Ottawa Senators loss means New York’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is six points.

After falling behind 2-0, New York scored three straight to take a 3-2 lead. The Islanders chased Red Wings’ started Petr Mrazek 16 seconds into the second period when Frans Nielsen gave New York a 4-3 lead.

Mrazek allowed four goals on 11 shots and was replaced by Jimmy Howard.

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to start, but I think credit to our team and everyone digging deep and sticking together,” said captain John Tavares, who had three assists in the win. “We responded right away.”

Brock Nelson, Kyle Okposo and Ryan Strome had first period goals. Cal Clutterbuck had the game winner.

New York’s power play went 3-for-4 in the win.

“Our power play is pretty underrated,” said Okposo. ”Everyone is yelling shoot all the time but we have pretty good structure.”

Added Tavares: “Our power play… it was good to see we got rewarded. We’ve been doing some decent things, I think. Obviously when you don’t score, sometimes the pressure can mount.”

Tomas Tatar and Drew Miller scored on Detroit’s first two shots giving the Wings a 2-0 lead before the two-minute mark of the first period. Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk had to other Wings’ goals.

With the loss the Wings remain seven points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division. Detroit has a three-point lead on the Boston Bruins.

Howard made 15 saves in relief and was saddled with the loss.

Jaroslav Halak improved to 36-16-2 with a 25 save performance.

The win snapped the Islanders’ three-game losing streak. It was the Islanders first home win since Feb. 27 snapping a streak of seven straight losses.

“We really needed two points, especially at home,” said Tavares. “Just a character win. I don’t think it’s the way we drew it up, but we did some really good things again. The second half of the game we didn’t give up much. We need to build on it now.”

Wings’ Mrazek hooked after allowing 4 goals on 11 shots

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After falling behind 2-0 before the two minute mark of the first period, the New York Islanders scored three straight to take a 3-2 lead.

The Islanders added a fourth goal 16 seconds into the second period to end Wings’ starter Petr Mrazek’s night early.

Mrazek allowed four goals on 11 shots and has been replaced by Jimmy Howard.

Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Kyle Okposo scored first period goals.

Frans Nielsen added his 14th of the season early in the second.

Islanders captain John Tavares has three assists moving him one point back of Sidney Crosby for the league-lead.