Ilya Sorokin allowed three goals on the first nine shots he faced behind a sloppy defense, and the New York Islanders’ playoff hopes took a significant hit with a 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Monday night.
The Islanders needed only to win out against opponents out of contention to return to then postseason after a one-year absence. After an uninspired effort that lacked the intensity and urgency the situation warranted, they’ll need help to secure one of the two wild cards in the Eastern Conference with just one game left to play.
New York trails Florida by one point in the standings after the Panthers lost in overtime to Toronto on a goal by former Islanders captain John Tavares. Pittsburgh is one point back but has two games left against the two worst teams in the NHL, Tuesday against Chicago and Thursday at Columbus, while the Panthers have one remaining.
Sorokin allowed goals to Dylan Strome, Rasmus Sandin and Craig Smith in the first 13-plus minutes of the game, but the Vezina Trophy candidate for the league’s top goaltender was far from the biggest problem for the Islanders and settled in to make 20 saves. Skaters in front of him lost Strome on his first goal and turned the puck over several times to give the Capitals quality scoring chances.
Washington was in a giving mood, too, playing out the string after an eight-year playoff streak came to an end, but Darcy Kuemper repeatedly turned aside shots from point-blank range after some inexplicable turnovers. He allowed late goals to Hudson Fasching and Casey Cizikas in the final six minutes and finished with 38 saves.
Despite missing Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie and playing a skater short with 17 for a third consecutive game, the Capitals snapped their losing streak at six and handed New York a third loss in the past five. Strome and Tom Wilson each scored an empty-netter, with Strome setting a career high with 23 goals.
Islanders: Host the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night in their regular-season finale.
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