Lightning beat Islanders to earn playoff berth
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Andrei Vasilevskiy made 38 saves, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos scored 1:48 apart midway through the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning earned their sixth straight playoff berth with a 5-0 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
Tampa Bay will play Toronto in the first round of the postseason. The Maple Leafs hold a four-point advantage, with two games at-hand, over Tampa Bay for home-ice advantage.
“Obviously it gives us peace of mind,” Vasilevskiy said of making the playoffs. “It gives us some more confidence moving forward.”
The Lightning, who have appeared in the Stanley Cup Final each of the past three years and won back to back in 2020 and 2021, have reached the playoffs in nine of coach Jon Cooper’s 10 full-seasons with the team.
“You have no chance to win the Stanley Cup unless you make the playoffs,” Cooper said.
Mikhail Sergachev, Tanner Jeannot and Brayden Point also scored for the Lightning.
Sergachev left in the third after hurting his right leg. Cooper had no update on Sergachev’s status postgame.
Vasilevskiy has two shutouts in his last three game and four overall this season. He has allowed one goal during Tampa Bay's three-game winning streak.
“I think what you're seeing is we're helping him out more,” Cooper said. “He's super human, but he's still human. You can't give some of the chances we've given up on rushes and things like that. When you start cutting those out, Vasy usually takes care of the rest.”
The Islanders hold a two-point lead over Florida for the top wild card in the Eastern Conference.
“The second (period) was garbage,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “It's missed assignments. Little things that we haven't been doing lately, and then they take advantage of them.”
New York goalie Ilya Sorokin was pulled with 8:15 left in the second after allowing four goals on 21 shots. He is 0-4 against the Lightning.
Point's power-play goal in the third period was his 48th this season, and joined Stamkos (36 in 2011-12) as the only Tampa Bay players to have 30 goals at home during a single season.
Jeannot’s goal came in the left wing’s 18th game with Tampa Bay after being acquired from Nashville.
Kucherov had a breakaway goal 9:57 into the second before Stamkos made it 4-0 and ended Sorokin’s night at 11:45.
Stamkos tied Islanders Hall of Famer Denis Potvin for the 75th on the career point list with 1,052. The center has 514 goals, which is one away from tying Pierre Turgeon for 40th place.
Sergachev had a first-period goal, while Jeannot scored early in the second.
Darren Raddysh and Point both had two assists. It was Raddysh's first NHL points, coming in his 16th career game.
Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said C Mathew Barzal, who hasn’t played since leaving a game at Boston on Feb. 18 with a lower-body injury, is ready to resume staking.
“Him skating is extremely positive, and then we just go from there,” Lamoriello said. “How long it takes, I couldn’t tell you.”
RW Oliver Wahlstrom, injured on Dec. 27, is out for the rest of the season due to a lower-body injury. Lamoriello said Wahlstrom will definitely be ready before the summer is over.
Islanders: At Carolina on Sunday night.
Lightning: At the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
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