Ottawa Senators left wing Ryan Dzingel and Senators centre Tommy Wingels look to control the puck in front of New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greisson April 9, 2017. (Adam Hunger/The Associated Press)
A day after missing out on the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders closed their season playing their best.
Anders Lee and Brock Nelson scored in the second period and the Islanders beat the Ottawa Senators 4-2 on Sunday for their season-high sixth straight win. Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera also scored and Nelson had an assist for New York, which was eliminated from playoff contention Saturday night.
“It’s nice to end on a good note,” Lee said. “It’s not good enough. We expect to be a playoff team every year and we didn’t get it done obviously. I think all the guys in the locker room are going to have a sour taste all summer.”
Interim coach Dough Weight went 24-12-4 after taking over for the fired Jack Capuano on Jan. 17 with the Islanders in last place in the East. They ended up just one point out of a playoff spot, missing the post-season for the second time in five seasons.
“It’s an uphill battle when you don’t get off to the start you need to,” Ladd said. “We did a good job of getting ourselves back into it, but that doesn’t give you much solace at this point.”
Thomas Greiss, playing for the first time in six games, stopped 32 shots. Greiss last played on March 30, when he was pulled after giving up three goals on eight shots in first 8:06 of a 6-3 loss at Philadelphia.
Bobby Ryan and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored for the Senators and Mike Condon had 17 saves. Ottawa, which had already clinched second place in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, left 10 players back home to rest.
“It was a game where we wanted to see some young guys,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said. “We pulled out a lot of our guys for rest, precaution and making sure we don’t have injuries.”
With Ottawa trailing 3-0, Ryan got the Senators on the scoreboard with 1:06 left in the second, skating in and firing a shot into the top right corner for his 13th.
Pageau pulled Ottawa within one 2:34 into the third, beating Greiss with a wrist shot for his 12th.
The Senators pressed for the tying goal in the closing minutes but couldn’t get anything else past Greiss.
“They stretched everything and pulled us out of what we try to do generally, and we got a lot of fill-in guys that trying to learn the system as well,” Ryan said. “We had a chance to get to 100 points, and we missed that.”
Chimera scored an empty-netter for his 20th with 1:08 left to seal the win.
The Islanders gathered at centre ice after the game and saluted the fans.
Lee extended the Islanders’ lead to 2-0 at 8:17 of the second as he got the puck on the right side of the net, waited and put it over the left pad of Condon, who was down on the ice, for his 34th – tied for ninth in the NHL. Josh Bailey, who finished with career-bests of 43 assists and 56 points, got his 200th career assist on the play.
Nelson added to New York’s lead with 6:08 left in the middle period as he skated past a defender, deked Condon and backhanded the puck through the goalie’s five-hole. It was Nelson’s 20th goal, reaching that mark for the third straight season, and gave him a career-high 44 points.
Ladd got the Islanders on the scoreboard 3:23 in with his 23rd of the season, and fourth in last 11 games.