If the Pittsburgh Penguins could just beat the New York Islanders Friday, they would punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs. That ended up being easier said than done for the Penguins (42-27-12), who lost to the Islanders (48-27-6) 3-1. The Penguins thought they had gotten on the board early, but a no goal call was upheld by instant replay and then eight seconds later New York’s Casey Cizikas put the Islanders on the board with this short-handed goal:
The Penguins would be playing catch-up the rest of the night and couldn’t come back to beat the Islanders, pushing their season to the brink. The loss by the Penguins means Saturday two playoff spots will be decided between three teams. All three teams are on the road, with the Ottawa Senators (97 pts) at the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins (96 pts) at the Buffalo Sabres, and the Boston Bruins (95 pts) at the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It would appear that the Bruins would have the toughest matchup, but at this point of the season you can’t really say as none of the teams faced by the wild card contenders are playing for anything. If the Penguins can’t find a way to navigate Saturday into the playoffs, it would be a rather tough pill to swallow. Injuries have severely hampered the Pens, but a collapse of this nature is never about one thing and is never excusable. One thing is certain, Saturday will be a very exciting day of hockey.