Islanders move into playoff spot after third straight victory in roller-coaster run

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Islanders are underwhelming. The Islanders have won three straight games. The Islanders are in a playoff spot.

The prevailing sentiment of this season has been bizarre from the start, so with just six games to go, maybe it’s not surprising that the charge to the postseason does not exactly inspire like the Charge of the Light Brigade.

But the British army did lose in the end, and after Islanders 4, Blue Jackets 2, the Isles have a three-game win streak in hand and can taste the postseason after passing the Capitals, who lost to Pittsburgh on Thursday night, for the second wild-card spot.

Bo Horvat (left) celebrates a goal with Casey Cizikas (53) during the Islanders’ 4-2 win over the Blue Jackets. AP

There are better things than a noble death.

A playoff spot is one of them.

“One of those nights where the ice was really bad, lot of plays that were looking great and then it hops over your stick,” Anders Lee told The Post. “One of those ones we had to grind out. I thought we did a good job of that.”

This was indeed a scruffy performance in which the Islanders never were quite able to impose themselves beyond a few shifts at a time against a Columbus side that sits in last place, is playing for nothing and was missing a laundry list of its best players.

Making his second straight start, Ilya Sorokin finished with 25 stops on 27 shots, but his rebound control still looked like a persistent issue.

But likewise, the Islanders held a 42-15 five-on-five scoring-chance advantage because they never ceded all that much ice, either.

Ilya Sorokin makes a save during the Islanders’ victory. NHLI via Getty Images

“We have a shift in our own end, we move on, next puck we get, we get it deep,” Mathew Barzal said. “Go forecheck and try to change the momentum.”

It all made for a fun-house mirror of a game that entered the final period tied at two, all but guaranteeing another stressful finish for an Islanders team that has probably developed a collective ulcer or two by now.

After Jet Greaves had come on in relief of an injured Danill Tarasov and played a perfect 14-save second period in just his fifth appearance in an NHL net, there was an underbelly of worry that this might just be going the wrong way for the visitors.

But 3:21 into the final period, Noah Dobson finally solved Greaves with a blast from the right circle that rang off the crossbar before landing in the back of the net for a 3-2 lead.

Pierre Engvall started the scoring for the Islanders. NHLI via Getty Images

From there, it was incumbent upon the Islanders to do what they had on Tuesday against the Blackhawks and close things out.

Things got stressful after Columbus pulled Greaves with under four minutes to go, but Sorokin came up with the saves he needed to make before Kyle Palmieri’s empty-net goal sealed the deal with 38 seconds left.

“I didn’t see too many holes in our game today,” coach Patrick Roy said. “I thought we did a pretty good job. At the end they had a little more, [but] we kept them, scoring chance-wise, pretty low and shot-wise, until they pulled the goalie.”

That was the prevailing sentiment after a third straight not-so-sexy victory.

Alexander Romanov (left) celebrates with goaltender Ilya Sorokin after the Islanders victory. NHLI via Getty Images

“I think we’re playing more consistent throughout the game,” Lee said. “I don’t think we’re having the lulls that we had. That was a big reason why we weren’t getting the consistent results is we were having too many periods of the game, whether it was first 20, second 20 — lapses. You’ve obviously seen it. I think we’ve been pretty consistent with our play for the majority of all these wins.”

This game did present the opportunity for lapses, particularly in a seesawing first period that saw Pierre Engvall open the scoring when he tipped in Ryan Pulock’s shot from the left point to finish a power play at the 7:53 mark. The Islanders gave that goal right back two minutes later when Dmitri Voronkov got on the end of Kirill Marchenko’s rebound for a power-play goal of his own.

Marchenko centered himself in the moment’s worst night for Sorokin before the period ended, banking the puck off the goaltender’s head from behind the net to re-tie the match at two after Bo Horvat had finished off Barzal’s breakaway feed. Shortly after that, Tarasov keeled over in pain after defenseman David Jiricek’s hip appeared to catch his head, with Greaves coming on in relief.

That was all in just the first 20 minutes.

A strange night to bookend a strange season.

One that, at least for the moment, might just be veering towards positivity.


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