The New York Islanders clinch a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 4-1 win over Devils

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Monday, April 15, 2024

NEWARK, N.J. -- - The New York Islanders are back in the playoffs for the fifth time in six years because they responded to the midseason coaching change that saw Patrick Roy replace Lane Lambert.

Kyle Palmieri and Brock Nelson each had a goal and an assist and the Islanders clinched one of the two remaining playoff berths in the Eastern Conference with a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Monday night.

"We were unhappy with our spot and how we were performing to what we knew we were capable of," Nelson said of the change. "So whether it was Lane or Patty, I think group still believed in what we have and sometimes a change or different voice just gives it a different perspective and right now it feels like we're on a little bit of a role."

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle MacLean also scored as the Islanders secured third place in the Metropolitan Division. Semyon Varamov made 23 saves for his fifth straight win and helped New York extend its point streak to eight games (7-0-1).

"It wasn't the prettiest of hockey games, we capitalized in our opportunities," Islanders captain Anders Lee said. "But something like this happens; we put ourselves in the playoffs and it's a culmination of 81 games of work and everything in between. So guys should be proud of it, we'll enjoy it here for a little bit."

The run also was evidence general manager Lou Lamoriello made the right move when he fired Lambert on Jan. 20 with New York's season slipping away after losing four straight and posting a 2-6-2 stretch during which they played poorly.

Roy came aboard and found ways to press the right buttons, leading the team to a 19-12-5 record, with their best hockey coming late with everything on the line. Lambert, who led the Islanders to the playoffs in his first season in 2022-23, was 19-15-11 when he was sacked.

"They played some very good hockey down the stretch and they were resilient," Roy said. "They worked together. I think we learned how to win and what I love is again tonight it was a 2-1 score and I felt like we were calm and we didn't change our game and that's a really good sign."

The win assured that the Islanders and they will face the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs.

Timo Meier scored for the Devils, who missed the playoffs a year after posting a franchise-record 112 points. Jake Allen had 14 saves in New Jersey's final game of the season.

"It's definitely tough," Meier said. "The year is done, you miss the playoffs, that's not where we want to be. And now it's time to take some time off. You know, everybody's going to look in the mirror, evaluate their performance. We're disappointed."

New Jersey also fired its head coach this season, letting veteran Lindy Ruff (30-27-4) go on March after a 1-2 West Coast trip. Associate head coach Travis Green was named the interim coach but the team didn't respond and it went 8-12-1 the rest of the season.

Green said he will meet with general manager Tom Fitzgerald and they will discuss his future. At the least, he probably will get an interview if Fitzgerald conducts a coaching search.

The Islanders, who close the season Wednesday at home against the Penguins, never trailed as Pageau scored on a 2-on-1 with Pierre Engvall with 7:38 left in the first with their first shot of the game. Palmieri doubled the lead with 3:08 remaining with his 29th goal, a tip on a power play.

Meier cut the deficit to a goal early in the second period for his 29th. However, Nelson restored the two-goal lead with 8:12 remaining in the period with his 33rd and MacLean, put the game away, scoring in close in the third period.

With the Devils out of playoff contention heading into their final game, Islanders fans were able to scoop up tickets and they celebrated more as more as New York's lead increased.

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UP NEXT:

Islanders: Host Penguins on Tuesday night in regular-season finale for both teams.

Devils: season over.

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AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL

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