Penguins Now Control Playoff Fate; Updated Playoff Scenarios
The Pittsburgh Penguins now control their playoff fate.
The New York Islanders choked away that power over the Eastern Conference wild card Monday when they allowed two goals in the opening 63 seconds against the Washington Capitals. New York was never again closer than two goals, and Washington led for the remainder of the game.
Washington scored a pair of empty-net goals in the final five minutes for a 5-2 win at Capital One Arena.
It was just Washington’s second win in their last 10 games, and they did it without Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Trever van Riemsdyk, Nic Dowd, and Anthony Mantha. Washington played with just 17 skaters due to salary cap constraints preventing call-ups.
Tom Wilson scored the first empty netter, then former Penguins winger Conor Sheary put the final dagger in the Islanders with a second empty netter.
The Penguins’ other wild card competition, the Florida Panthers, flirted with disaster against the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday. The game was scoreless until Toronto center Auston Matthews scored late in the second period.
Despite heavily outshooting Toronto, Florida trailed until midway through the third period. Defenseman Brandon Montour joined the rush and ripped a clean wrister past Toronto goalie Ilya Samsonov.
Toronto won 2-1 when John Tavares scored the game-winner with 21 seconds remaining in OT. Florida gained one point, but they could have clinched a playoff berth with a regulation or OT win. However, the point put them two points ahead of the Penguins and one point ahead of the Islanders.
**Florida might face a must-win Thursday when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Live Arena. If New York wins in regulation vs. the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday, that will force Florida to win Thursday.
If the Islanders win in OT or a shootout, Florida would only need a point to clinch a playoff berth and eliminate the Islanders and Buffalo Sabres.
**Florida will claim the top wild card with a win Thursday. A loss, even in OT or SO, would allow the Penguins to claim the first wild card with a win of any kind.
**The Buffalo Sabres could leapfrog both the Islanders and Florida if Buffalo wins their remaining three games and Florida loses their final game in regulation, and the Islanders fail to win in any way.
While the situation remains jumbled, the Pittsburgh Penguins have clarity: Win both remaining games and extend the longest current North American sports playoff streak to 17 years running.
The Penguins must win both, or they would likely be eliminated.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Total possible points 94.
Chicago Blackhawks (Tuesday)
@Columbus Blue Jackets (Thursday)
Florida Panthers: Total possible points 94.
Carolina Hurricanes (Thursday)
New York Islanders: Total possible points 93.
Montreal Canadiens (Wednesday)
Buffalo Sabres: Total possible points 93.
@New Jersey Devils (Tuesday)
Ottawa Senators (Thursday)
@Columbus Blue Jackets (Friday)