SUNRISE, Fla. — The New York Islanders held on to second place in the Metropolitan Division with a 2-1 shootout win against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Thursday.
The Islanders (47-27-7) have a two-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins, who defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 on Thursday, and need one point at the Washington Capitals on Saturday or a Penguins loss to the New York Rangers to clinch second place and home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round.
Washington clinched first place in the division with a 2-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
“We still wanted to have hope that we could battle [for first place] in the last game, but we’ve still got something to play for, which is good,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s good for our group to learn to play for something. It’s easy to play for nothing. It doesn’t take anything. There’s no weight on your mind. [This] prepares us. I like that. We’ll have something to play for.”
Brock Nelson scored in the second period and had the only goal in the shootout, and Thomas Greiss made 29 saves for New York, which has won five of seven. Nelson scored in the second half of the fourth round of the shootout when he slipped a backhand between Samuel Montembeault’s legs.
“We just want to take care of our business,” Nelson said. “I thought we did a really good job tonight, played a good game. Greiss made a lot of saves, four big ones in the shootout. Big for us to come down here, get this one and now on to the next one with another big test to finish it off.”
The Islanders are 5-5 in shootouts, with Greiss posting a 5-2 record with 21 saves on 23 attempts after stopping Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Frank Vatrano and Vincent Trocheck on Thursday.
Florida is 3-7 in shootouts.
“[Greiss] was outstanding,” Trotz said. “They had a couple of posts, but if you’re in perfect position that’s all they can hit. He was outstanding in the shootout against them, pretty dynamic people. He was really good. He was calm. It was a hard game for him because the first period he didn’t get any shots, he just stood there and watched for the most part. Got a few tough looks in the second, and then in the third they got the one and then he had to go in the shootout. All year in the shootout he’s been outstanding.”
Huberdeau scored, and Montembeault made 35 saves for the Panthers (36-32-13), who had won three in a row. Montembeault, making his 10th NHL start, also had his first NHL assist.
“He had to make some big saves,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “Goal-mouth scrambles where it was two and three at a time. I thought that was his best game he’s played for us as a Panther so far, no doubt about it. He’s had some good games, some really good games, but that one stands out for me.”
Montembeault was making his first start since being pulled after giving up two goals on four shots in the first 4:21 of a 7-5 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 25.
“I was seeing the puck well,” Montembeault said. “It was important for me to come back with a good performance. We did a good job, there was a lot of point shots for them.”
Nelson made it 1-0 at 1:50 of the second when he one-timed Michael Dal Colle’s pass across the middle.
Huberdeau tied it 1-1 at 12:45 of the third period on the power play on a breakaway after taking a two-line pass from defenseman Keith Yandle.
“Such a timely goal,” Boughner said. “It was a great little design that we had on the entry on the power play. The guys executed it and he finished. I’d like to see one more [point] in the shootout, but it was a big goal for us.”
They said it
“It’s going to be a big test for us. I think everyone is going to be engaged for that one. It’s going to be a big game. Obviously we want to send a message going into the playoffs.” — Islanders forward Anders Lee on the season finale against Washington
“It’s nice, a career high in points. It’s a good year, but I’d rather have 60 points and make the playoffs.” — Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau on reaching 90 points
Need to know
Huberdeau’s goal was his 90th point of the season. He and Barkov (94) are the first Panthers teammates with at least 90 points in the same season. … Huberdeau has 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in his past 15 games. … Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey played 19:10 after being a healthy scratch for six games.
Islanders: At the Washington Capitals on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, MSG+, NHL.TV)
Panthers: Host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, MSG+2, NHL.TV)