(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Islanders clinched a playoff spot on an off night and the Pittsburgh Penguins will try to achieve the same goal on Friday when they host the Isles at CONSOL Energy Center.
Tonight's contests pits a pair of struggling Metropolitan Division clubs against each other, as the Pens have lost four straight and the Islanders have dropped five of seven. New York's recent funk isn't going to prevent it from making the playoffs, but it's still possible Pittsburgh's slide could cost it a postseason berth.
The Islanders secured a trip to the playoffs after the Florida Panthers defeated the visiting Boston Bruins on Friday night. New York is currently third in the Metro with 98 points, two more than the Penguins, who are holding onto the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Isles also are three behind Washington for second place in the division and get to use a game in hand over the idle Capitals on Friday.
Pittsburgh is one point ahead of the Bruins for the East's final playoff berth. The Pens have two games left and could lock up a postseason spot by gaining a total of two points from tonight's tilt and Saturday's regular- season finale in Buffalo. Pittsburgh also would get in if Boston loses its last game of the season Saturday in Tampa.
The Penguins had lost three straight in regulation before picking up a point from Tuesday's overtime loss in Ottawa. Considering Pittsburgh blew a 3-0 lead in the game and a regulation win would have clinched a playoff berth, it was not an ideal result.
Sidney Crosby opened the scoring just 10 seconds into Tuesday's game and his Pens would build a three-goal cushion before the game was 15 minutes old. However, the Senators would claw their way back into the contest and eventually tied it at 3-3 in the closing minutes of regulation with goaltender Andrew Hammond pulled in favor of the extra attacker.
Mike Hoffman fired a wrist shot from the point past Fleury to even things and send the game to overtime, where Stone won it at the 2:43 mark.
Crosby and Patric Hornqvist each had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 40 saves in a losing effort.
"If we got that fourth (goal), we'd be in a lot better situation," Crosby said. "They got a good bounce on the short-handed one in the second and (we're) probably guilty of sitting back a bit."
In addition clinching the club a playoff spot, a win tonight also would move Pittsburgh in front of Ottawa. The Senators have 97 points and have yet to a postseason berth.
The Isles also lost in heartbreaking fashion when it dropped a 5-4 decision Tuesday in Philadelphia. New York came back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period to tie the game, but Jaroslav Halak surrendered a fluky goal just before the horn sounded at the end of regulation.
On the game's final shift, Flyers forward Brayden Schenn was squared up against Isles defenseman Travis Hamonic along the left-wing boards and released a shot which handcuffed an unscreened Halak and went into the net with just 2.1 seconds left.
The shocking game-winner came moments after Anders Lee tied the game for New York with 28 seconds left in the third.
"It hit my stick, I thought I had it inside of me and it was behind me. I gave up a bad goal," said Halak. "Obviously I take full responsibility for the loss. We all make mistakes, bad timing for me. I just gotta shake it off and get ready for the next one."
Halak stopped 22 pucks and will get the start again tonight. He is 5-4-0 with a 2.21 goals against average in nine career games against the Penguins.
John Tavares posted a goal and two assists for the Islanders, who skidded to their ninth loss in 12 games. Johnny Boychuk added a late tally for the visitors.
New York is closing out its road schedule tonight before hosting Columbus on Saturday to end the 2014-15 regular season. Saturday's game will be the club's final regular-season test at Nassau Coliseum, as the Isles are moving to Brooklyn's Barclays Center for the start of next season.
The Isles have won three straight in this series after dropping its previous four against the Pens. Pittsburgh has claimed four of the past six encounters in the Steel City.