The New York Islanders briefly extended their playoff hopes on Saturday night with a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, but they were mathematically eliminated shortly after, as the Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a playoff spot with a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Islanders (92 points) can not catch the Maple Leafs (95 points) and will play the final game of their season on Sunday against the Ottawa Senators. It was a disappointing result, especially in light of a five-game winning streak and a valiant push from a team that was last in the Eastern Conference back in late January.
"We wanted to give ourselves a chance, at least a chance for some meaningful games," Jason Chimera said. "We wanted a chance and we gave ourselves that."
Anders Lee scored two goals, Jaroslav Halak made 37 saves and Adam Pelech and Chimera each netted a goal, as the Islanders won their fifth straight game, a game they needed to win to even have a chance at the postseason.
Video: NYI@NJD: Chimera finishes Quine's silky dish
Halak kept the Islanders chances alive in the first period, making 14 saves in the opening frame including a late breakaway save on Taylor Hall. Halak was sharp all night earning first star honors, but was especially good in the first, en route to improving to 6-1 since his recall.
Video: NYI@NJD: Halak kicks aside Hall's breakaway bid
"He's been so solid, you can tell he's seeing everything, tracking the puck," Lee said of Halak.
"They had a few breakaways, a couple 2-on-1's and he kept them out."
The Islanders didn't waste Halak's first period effort, as the offense broke through in the second period.
Pelech opened the scoring 2:48 into the second period, pinching off the blue line, taking a feed from Nikolay Kulemin and beating Keith Kinkaid five-hole to make it 1-0. Kulemin was playing for the first time since March 24.
Video: NYI@NJD: Pelech opens scoring with heavy wrister
After Pelech's icebreaker, the Islanders capitalized again shortly after, as Lee deflected the first of his two goals at 6:23, giving his team a 2-0 lead.
Jason Chimera made it 3-0 early in the third period, as Alan Quine spun off a Devils defenseman and backhanded a feed to Chimera in the slot at 3:52. The goal was Chimera's 19th of the season, giving the 37-year-old a shot at a second straight 20-goal season on Sunday at Barclays Center.
Video: NYI@NJD: Lee tips home Leddy's point shot
"The first period was one of our worst periods in the last two months, but we played better, we got it going in the second and we got some big finish from some guys," Interim Coach Doug Weight said.
Beau Bennett broke Halak's shutout bid five minutes into the third, but Lee restored the three-goal lead. Kinkaid bit on Josh Bailey's slap pass, giving Lee time to set up and backhand the 4-1 goal from the side of the net at 8:11.
Video: NYI@NJD: Lee flips in PPG for second of the game
Miles Wood's goal with 2.2 seconds left rounded out the scoresheet, but that didn't faze the Islanders. They did what they needed to do on Saturday night. Unfortunately, it was out of their control after that.
The season finale goes on Sunday at 6 p.m.