New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 24th 2024

The New York Islanders have spent the last two seasons precariously perched on the edge of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

The next 11 days might determine if the Islanders maintain their wobbly position or finally fall off.

The Islanders open a key stretch Saturday when they host the rival Tampa Bay Lightning in in Elmont, N.Y.

Both teams were off Friday after losing Thursday, when the visiting Islanders were blanked by the St. Louis Blues 4-0 and the host Lightning fell to the Washington Capitals 5-3.

The loss was especially frustrating for the Islanders, who were undone by a 32-second sequence in the middle period when the Blues scored their first three goals — the fastest three-goal flurry in franchise history.

Islanders coach Patrick Roy pulled goalie Semyon Varlamov midway through the third, shortly before Pavel Buchnevich capped his hat trick with an empty-netter.

The defeat cost the Islanders a chance to move into sole possession of ninth place in the Eastern Conference and pull within three points of the Lightning, who occupy the second and final wild-card spot.

The Isles, Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils all have 60 points, five behind the Lightning and six points behind the Detroit Red Wings. The Devils suffered a 5-1 loss to the visiting New York Rangers on Thursday night.

“We’re in a position now where we need wins,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “We’ve got to start making some moves here.”

Movement isn’t likely to come easy for the Islanders, who began a six-game stretch against contenders Thursday. After hosting the Lightning, New York visits the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars and Red Wings before returning home to face the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins and Blues, who moved into a tie for the final Western Conference wild-card spot with Thursday’s win.

The Lightning, who eliminated the Islanders in the playoffs en route to winning consecutive Stanley Cups in 2020 and ’21, are also in a precarious position entering Saturday, when they begin a three-game road trip. Tampa Bay will also visit the Devils and Philadelphia Flyers, the latter of whom are in third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Tampa Bay closed out a four-game homestand by losing three straight — its first consecutive losses at Amalie Arena since Dec. 27-30. The Lightning were outscored 18-7 by the Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators and Capitals and led for just 6:37 in that span — all on Feb. 17 against the Panthers, who responded by scoring nine unanswered goals.

The Lightning fell behind 3-1 Thursday before Nick Paul and Tyler Motte scored within a 24-second span early in the third period. But Rasmus Sandin scored with 4:59 left and Connor McMichael added an empty-netter with 1:02 remaining for the Capitals.

“These were games where we had opportunities to get points and we didn’t,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “For whatever reason, we’ve been a pretty darn good team here at Amalie. And to come away with zero points, especially the playoff battle we’re in, is hard to swallow.”

–Field Level Media

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