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Islanders lose to Hurricanes but clinch playoff berth

The SportsXchange

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The New York Islanders could rejoice even with a setback Tuesday night.

The Carolina Hurricanes briefly put the brakes on the Islanders' quest to reach the playoffs, winning 4-3 in a shootout at PNC Arena.

But with the Winnipeg Jets losing 5-3 to the Washington Capitals, the Islanders secured their first postseason spot since 2007.

"It feels weird to lose a game and we're still celebrating we got in," Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said.

Riley Nash, on his first NHL shootout attempt, and Jeff Skinner scored in the shootout for the Hurricanes.

Frans Nielsen and Brad Boyes were stopped on shootout tries for the Islanders.

John Tavares scored the tying goal for the Islanders with 1:01 remaining in regulation. That goal essentially pushed the Islanders, who have two regular-season games remaining, into the postseason because it gave New York one more team point in the standings.

"It's a first step of what we want to accomplish and that's to get to the playoffs," Islanders left wing Matt Moulson said. "It shows a lot of character getting the one point. We knew how important getting that one point would be."

Moulson, 29, is headed for the playoffs for the first time in his five-year NHL career.

"The guys battled all year," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano, whose team is 8-0-3 in its last 11 games. "We didn't start off great this season, they showed a lot of will and sacrifice and determination and they deserve it."

Hurricanes goalie Dan Ellis was tough in overtime and in the shootout. He finished with 36 saves.

Patrick Dwyer scored the go-head goal late in the second period for the Hurricanes.

Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal also scored for the Hurricanes, who've notched consecutive victories for the first time since March 9 and 12. Carolina has won two of three games since it was eliminated from playoff contention.

"We're just trying to play the way that we can," Staal said.

Ellis was playing for the second game in a row after serving as a backup for six games.

"Hats off to us for matching their effort and exceeding it," Ellis said. "We're starting to find our identity."

New York's Evgeni Nabokov made 29 stops.

Boyes and Josh Bailey scored for the Islanders, who were aiming for a season-best four-game winning streak.

Michael Grabner's shot hit the post in overtime in a near-score for the Islanders.

Carolina coach Kirk Muller said that he knew the game meant a lot to the Islanders, so he was pleased with his team's grit.

By the end, he went with Nash in the shootout on a hunch after watching Nash practice such situations during the morning skate.

"It wasn't planned or anything," Muller said of going with Nash.

Dwyer scored the goal-ahead goal with 2:15 left in the second period. The Islanders were unable to secure the puck behind the net, and with the defense shifting Dwyer skated in for a wrist shot that made it past Nabokov.

It was Dwyer's eighth goal of the season, but only his second in the last 18 games.

Semin opened the scoring less than four minutes into the game, giving him three goals in a four-game span.

The Islanders were denied a quick equalizer when Keith Aucoin's shot off a Carolina turnover hit the crossbar. Instead, the tying goal came barely a minute later when the puck went off Boyes' skate for an Islanders goal.

Staal's goal with 3:40 to play in the first period resulted from a redirect of defenseman Jay Harrison's delivery.

The Islanders were even at 2-2 when Bailey scored off a second-period rebound. It gave him goals in consecutive games for the first time this season.

It was the first time in Carolina's 23 home outings this season that a game extended beyond regulation.

The Hurricanes secured a three-game series sweep. Carolina won twice on the road against the Islanders in February.

NOTES: The Islanders recorded at least one victory against 13 of their 14 Eastern Conference opponents. The lone exception was Carolina. ... The Hurricanes altered their alignments, putting winger Jeff Skinner at center on the third line. ... Forward Jiri Tlusty, who entered the game with a Carolina-leading 21 goals this season, played in his 200th NHL game with the organization. ... The Islanders outshot their opponents in their previous nine games. ... This was the third game of a five-game road stretch to end the regular season for the Islanders. Their next stops are Thursday at Philadelphia and Friday at Buffalo. ... The Hurricanes play their home finale Thursday night against the New York Rangers.

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