The New York Islanders' 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes was relatively drama-free on the ice.
The Islanders seized control of the game with a pair of goals in the opening five minutes and never relinquished it. Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves for his second shutout of the season and 41st of his career, as the Islanders took care of their own business.
Off the ice, it was a stressful night of scoreboard watching for the Islanders, who saw the Ottawa Senators clinch a playoff spot with a 2-1 shootout win over the Boston Bruins. The Islanders caught a break, as the Toronto Maple Leafs lost 4-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning, keeping the Isles' playoff hopes alive.
"It was a huge win, now we just have to cross our fingers," Interim Coach Doug Weight said.
With their season on the line again, the Islanders' start matched the gravity of their situation. They came out and scored a pair of goals right away, going up 2-0 in the opening 4:39.
Video: NYI@CAR: Nelson nets goal after lucky redirect
They weren't pretty goals, but the dirty goals aligned with the Islanders scratch and claw mentality that's characterized the team over the past month. Brock Nelson carried the puck into the crease and it caromed off a Hurricanes skate in the ensuing chaos at 1:27. Scott Mayfield did his best Anders Lee impression, going to the front of the net and chipping a rebound past Eddie Lack at 4:39.
Video: NYI@CAR: Mayfield backhands a rebound into the net
The Islanders built on their lead early in the second period, as Andrew Ladd beat Lack with a wrister off the rush for a power-play goal 39 seconds into the middle frame.
"In big games like this, you can get an early one or an early couple and it allows you to relax into the game," Ladd said. "For us that was key tonight."
Video: NYI@CAR: Ladd beats Lack with sneaky snap shot
The three-goal lead was the most comfortable cushion the Islanders had against the Hurricanes in five meetings this season. They weren't in a run-and-gun shootout, nor were they digging out of a hole, so the Isles clamped down and protected their lead for the rest of the period.
Adam Pelech broke up the best of the Hurricanes' limited chances, getting a stick on a Noah Hanifin power-play look late in the second, while Halak was equal to the 29 shots he faced. With the win, Halak and the Islanders have won a season-high four straight games.
"Tonight I have to give the guys the credit," Halak said. We did the little things."
Video: NYI@CAR: Halak kicks out left pad to rob Dahlbeck
PATH TO THE PLAYOFFS:
There's only one playoff spot still up for grabs in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders (90 points) are three points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs (93 points) with two games to play. The Islanders still need to win their remaining two games and need the Leafs to lose their remaining two. If the Leafs gain two points - via overtime loss - they will clinch.
The Islanders wrap up their four-game road trip on Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils. Puck drop is at 6 p.m.