The New York Islanders weren’t in any serious danger of losing their hold on a playoff spot entering Thursday’s game in Winnipeg, and it was always going to be just a matter of when, and not if, they officially clinch a postseason berth.
Even so, they were some concerning trends starting to emerge over the past month. Perhaps the biggest one was that in their past eight games against against teams in a playoff spot they were only 2-6-0 with just 10 total goals scored (and six of those goals coming in just one of those games).
Trailing by two goals with less than 14 minutes to play on Thursday, it looked like they were on their way to yet another frustrating loss against a playoff team.
Then everything changed in an instant.
The Islanders scored three goals over the final 13 minutes, including two in the final two minutes, to storm back for a 5-4 win that moved them back into second place in the Metropolitan Division and has them one step closer to returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
Mathew Barzal also snapped what had been a lengthy goal-scoring drought for the Islanders, netting his first goal in 20 games.
As for the Jets, this could be a big missed opportunity.
At different points throughout the game they held leads of 2-0, 3-1, and 4-2, on home ice, with a chance to extend their lead over the Nashville Predators in the Central Division race. To not even get a single point out of that leaves the door wide open for the Predators to perhaps steal that top spot away from them.
The Jets’ lead over the Predators sits at two points while both teams have five games remaining.
Four of the Jets’ five remaining games are on the road.