The Philadelphia Flyers won't get a chance to spoil the New York Islanders' playoff chances on Thursday, but they will aim for a fifth win in six games in the final contest at Wells Fargo Center this season.
The lockout-shortened season has seen a reversal of fortune for these two Atlantic Division clubs, as the Flyers are out of the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07, while the Isles are headed to their first postseason since that same year.
New York locked up its first playoff spot in six years on Tuesday despite losing its game in Carolina. The point gained in the 4-3 shootout loss to the Hurricanes combined with Winnipeg's regulation setback to Washington was enough to clinch the postseason berth.
The sixth-seeded Islanders have two regular-season games left to improve their Eastern Conference standing. New York is one point behind Toronto for the fifth spot and two points ahead of both Ottawa and the New York Rangers. The Islanders, Maple Leafs and Rangers each have two tilts left, while the Senators hold a game in hand.
The Rangers visit Carolina on Thursday, the Maple Leafs are visiting Florida and Ottawa is playing in Washington.
John Tavares, the fourth-year player who is gaining momentum as a candidate for the Hart Trophy, scored with 1:01 left in regulation on Tuesday to help the Islanders get the all-important point. Riley Nash and Jeff Skinner both scored in the first two rounds of the shootout to allow the Hurricanes to get the win.
"We got our game going, and we got contributions from everybody and started to figure out what it takes to win," Tavares said, reflecting on the season. "And you know we're happy to be there and give ourselves an opportunity to compete in the playoffs. A lot of us haven't had that experience."
Josh Bailey and Brad Boyes also scored for the Isles and Evgeni Nabokov made 29 saves in the losing effort.
New York has gained at least a point in 11 straight games (8-0-3) since last losing in regulation to Pittsburgh on March 30. The Isles also have won two straight against Philadelphia since losing the opening game of the season series on home ice by a 7-0 count. The Flyers still have won 26 of the last 31 encounters overall.
The Isles are closing the season on a four-game road trip, a swing that will end Friday in Buffalo. They have an excellent 14-5-3 road record in 2013.
The Flyers, meanwhile, have taken to their spoiler role and will aim for a third straight win tonight. Philadelphia won for the fourth time in five outings by beating the playoff-bound Boston Bruins by a 5-2 score in Tuesday's game at Wells Fargo Center.
Steve Mason turned away 39 shots to help the Flyers deal Boston its fifth setback in six games. Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell, Matt Read, Oliver Lauridsen and Jakub Voracek all scored for Philadelphia.
"He was really good again tonight," said Gagne about Mason. "His confidence is getting bigger and bigger every game and that's something we've been talking a lot about."
The Flyers are 14-7-2 as the host this season compared to a dismal 7-15-1 mark on the road. Philly will close its season Saturday in Ottawa.