Matt Martin’s crucial late goal on Saturday helped the New York Islanders defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning and hang on to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. As has been the case in many of the Islanders wins this season, depth scoring paved the way for a surprising win. Team leaders John Tavares and Matt Moulson only contributed a combined one assist, but the Islanders still managed four goals while getting a solid effort from goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
Michael Grabner’s 12th goal of the game got things going for the Islanders, and Josh Bailey also scored before Martin helped get the lead back with under seven minutes left to play. Andrew MacDonald added an empty net goal to seal the win, while rookie Anders Lee’s assist on Martin’s goal marked his second point in his second career game. The goals for Martin and MacDonald marked the third time this season either player has found the back of the net, and marks the kind of scoring a playoff team needs to have.
Nabokov will likely see nearly every start down the stretch as the Islanders have nine games remaining and are currently clinging to a two-point lead for the final playoff spot. Three of their final games are against teams that also have a shot at the final spot, while a Thursday meeting with the Boston Bruins may prove to be one of the toughest match-ups remaining on the schedule. The Islanders’ style of winning by outscoring opponents may not be the prettiest, but it is exciting to watch and has worked so far. If they can get into the playoffs, they could be trouble for a higher-seeded time in a seven-game series.