The stakes were clear on Saturday night for the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins.
Tied with 82 points apiece for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the head-to-head matchup was an important one for both teams. Unfortunately for the Islanders, a 2-1 loss cost them both a game and their playoff spot, even if just temporarily.
The regulation loss put the Bruins (84 points) ahead of the Islanders (82 points) and back into the playoffs. The Islanders still hold a game in hand on the Bruins, but with Boston currently holding the regulation/OT win tiebreaker, the Isles will need to eventually surpass the Bruins to get in the postseason.
"We have eight games," John Tavares said. "There's not much time left, but there's still enough for us to get in. Disappointing we didn't get today, we know today was a big game and could have put us in a really good spot, but we'll keep battling till the end."
Video: BOS@NYI: Pelech stops Pastrnak's rush with check
The postseason stakes gave the game a playoff feel. It was a tight-checking, low-scoring affair with few shots - 19-18 for the Islanders - but a lot of post-whistle scrums.
"It was an April-May game," Interim Coach Doug Weight said. "It was a playoff-type game. It was just a muck-it-up type of game and somebody was going to win it with a goal and we didn't."
Tavares opened the scoring with his 28th goal of the season - tying Bobby Nystrom with his 235th as an Islander - but Riley Nash scored a pair of goals for the Bruins, including the game-winner 4:12 into the third period.
Video: BOS@NYI: Tavares weaves into zone and nets wrister
The Islanders had their opportunities on Saturday, but went 0-6 on the man advantage, including back-to-back power plays in the third period. Tavares had the Islanders' best chance, but rung the would-be tying goal off the crossbar on the team's last power play.
"We felt we had three good power plays and three not very good [power plays]," Tavares said. "I had two really good looks and obviously it'd be nice to put them in. One off the bar, one off his shoulder that he didn't even see. A matter of inches."
Bruins backup Anton Khudobin stopped 18-of-19 for the win, while Thomas Greiss made 16 saves in the loss.
The Islanders start the final two weeks of their regular season against the Nashville Predators on Monday night. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.