The New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers both did their part to tighten up the Eastern Conference playoff race Monday night. However, somebody will gain a little bit of separation Tuesday when the Islanders host the Flyers in a battle of Metropolitan Division rivals at Barclays Center.
Both teams beat fellow Eastern Conference contenders Monday night. The visiting Islanders scored four goals in the first 21 minutes of a 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals, and the host Flyers scored the game’s final four goals in a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
By winning for the fourth time in six games — and collecting at least one point for the sixth time in seven games — the Islanders (70 points) moved into a tie for third place in the Metropolitan Division with the Columbus Blue Jackets. But New York has played just 54 games, tied for the fewest in the NHL, and has three games in hand on the Blue Jackets.
The Islanders don’t have much of a cushion, though, thanks in part to the Flyers, who are just one point behind after moving into sole possession of the second Eastern Conference wild card due to their Monday win. With a regulation loss Tuesday, New York would fall back into the wild-card scramble.
“We’re kind of fighting for positioning, and (the Flyers are) a big divisional opponent,” Islanders forward Josh Bailey said after collecting three assists Monday night. “It’s part of playing in this league. You’ve got to be ready physically, mentally, emotionally to ramp it back up in a short time span. So we’ll make sure we get our rest tonight and try and bring that (Tuesday).
The Flyers have made themselves a factor in the Eastern Conference by going 9-3-1 since Jan. 8. Each of Philadelphia’s past six wins has been by at least three goals, including a 7-2 rout of the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals on Saturday.
“Obviously, it was a strong game last game — a lot of bounce went our way, too, though,” Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk said after scoring the go-ahead goal in the second period Monday night. “And we wanted to make sure we followed that up with a strong effort against a team we’re fighting for position with. When you’re playing against those teams in that kind of pocket that we’re in, it means even more to get those points.”
Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss and Flyers goalie Carter Hart earned the wins Monday night, which makes it likely New York’s Semyon Varlamov and Philadelphia’s Brian Elliott will draw the starts in net Tuesday.
Varlamov last played Saturday, when he took the loss after recording 27 saves as the Islanders fell 3-1 to the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.
Elliott completed a fill-in stint as the Flyers’ starter Saturday, when he stopped 25 shots against the Capitals. It was the seventh start in nine games for Elliott in place of Hart, who returned Monday from an abdominal injury sustained in practice Jan. 14.
–Field Level Media