The Islanders finished the 2014-15 season tied with the Washington Capitals with 101 points. The Caps held the tiebreaker due to their 2-0-2 season series record vs the Isles. Home-ice advantage turned out to be key as the Caps defeated the Isles 2-1 in Game 7. New York had plenty of opportunities throughout the season to secure another point.
April 7 at Philadelphia
The Islanders limped into that Tuesday night’s game losing 13 of their last 20 games. Early in to the third period it looked like they were on their way to another defeat. New York battled back from a 4-1 deficit as Anders Lee’s second goal of the game tied it with just 28 seconds left. The Isles were 28 seconds from a point and also a playoff berth. The Flyers’ Bradyen Schenn came across center ice and threw an innocent wrist shot just above the left face-off circle and passed Jaroslav Halak for a 5-4 Flyers win.
That loss was not the sole reason why the team failed to secure a fourth home playoff game in a series for the first time since the 1987-88 season. It was just the most dramatic.
While Halak had a career season (38-17-4, 2.43 GAA and .914 save pct.), His understudies did not. General manager Garth Snow thought he finally found a capable backup in Chad Johnson. Snow signed Johnson to a two-year contract worth $2.6 million dollars. Johnson struggled big time (8-8-1, 3.08 GAA and .889 save pct.) He allowed 3 or more goals in 10 of his 17 starts. He was shipped off to Buffalo at the deadline for Michal Neuvirth. He did not fare much better as he allowed 3 or more goals in 4 of his 5 Islander starts. The team got just 9 wins out of their three backups.
The Worst Lead in Hockey
The Islanders have had trouble in the past closing out games, especially ones with a multiple-goal lead. They were 0-3-3 last season when giving up a two-goal lead, half of those were with a three-goal lead. Kevin Poulin was recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League to replace Halak who sustained a lower-body injury. The Isles carried a 3-0 lead into the third period vs the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres scored on three straight shots in 5:12 to force overtime. Poulin allowed the lone shootout goal and the Isles failed to secure the second point. It was Poulin’s lone start of the season.
Islanders blow two-goal lead en route to 4-3 shootout loss to Columbus | http://t.co/xyhZ5rOGoO
— NY Daily News Sports (@NYDNSports) April 3, 2015
Perhaps the worst of all came in the final regular season game at the Nassau Coliseum. The Isles bounced back following the Flyers debacle to defeat the Penguins and clinch a playoff spot. Second place in the Metropolitan division was not out of reach. They needed to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets, who overcame a two-goal deficit to beat the Isles in a shootout a week earlier. Another point lost. Emotions ran high that night as former Islander legends were in attendance and the crowd was rocking. New York had a 3-1 lead with ten minutes left in the third period. Columbus scored two goals in 90 seconds to tie the game. The Isles regained the lead with just over four minutes left in regulation as Nikolai Kulemin scored his 15th of the season. Unfortunately the home team gave up the lead with 90 seconds left to force overtime. Cam Atkinson’s goal in the shootout secure home ice for the Washington Capitals.
A lesson learned here is that every point, whether in October or April, is equally as valuable.
Noel Fogelman is a 5-time Emmy Winner and started his career working on the Buffalo Sabres Pre and postgame shows for the Empire Sports Network. He then went to Bristol, CT to work at ESPN on NHL2Night and its coverage of the Stanley Cup. Follow me on Twiter @thefirstnoel19