Though making the playoffs still seems like a stretch for the New York Islanders, they are certainly playing like a postseason contender.
The Islanders look for a third straight victory Tuesday night when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs, also desperate to move into playoff position.
Only Ottawa has fewer points (47) in the Eastern Conference than New York’s 53, but the Islanders (23-30-7) have won six of seven and are 19-20-4 since Jack Capuano replaced the fired Scott Gordon as coach Nov. 15.
The Islanders are one point behind surging 13th-place New Jersey, but 11 out of the eighth and final playoff spot with 22 games remaining.
“Our focus is get as many wins as we can,” forward Matt Moulson(notes) said. “We’re kind of under the radar. Everybody talks about the Devils and how well they’re playing right now. Maybe we’ll catch a couple of teams off-guard.”
Moulson has done his part by totaling five goals in two games. He took over the team lead with 26 goals after recording his first hat trick of the season in Monday’s 5-1 victory over visiting Florida.
The Islanders, who have averaged 4.8 goals in nine games, are in position to score at least three goals in 10 straight contests for the first time since Feb. 27-March 17, 1994.
“People want to knock us down every day, from what I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Al Montoya(notes), who made 20 saves Monday to improve to 3-0-0 with a 1.23 goals-against average since being acquired from Phoenix on Feb. 9. “You want to play that underdog role. You go out there and play hard and show the rest of the league what you can do.”
The Islanders have proved they can win in Toronto, winning two of three there, including 2-1 on Oct. 18. Moulson scored in that contest and also in a 5-3 home loss to the Maple Leafs on Feb. 8. He has goals in three straight games against Toronto.
Despite trading veteran defensemen Francois Beauchemin(notes) and Tomas Kaberle(notes), and young forward Kris Versteeg(notes) over the last two weeks, Toronto (25-27-7) is 6-2-2 in February. However, the Maple Leafs are 12th in the East, four points ahead of New York and seven behind Carolina for the final playoff spot.
The Maple Leafs look to bounce back from Saturday’s 1-0 shootout loss to Ottawa. Toronto has totaled seven goals while losing three of five.
“We got a point and you move on to the next game,” coach Ron Wilson told the Maple Leafs’ official website.