New York Islanders (+113) at Pittsburgh Penguins (-125, 5.5 o/u)
With just two games left on their schedule, the Pittsburgh Penguins (42-26-12, 96 pts) still haven’t punched their ticket to the NHL playoffs. Sidney Crosby and company can finally put their fans at ease tonight with a win over the New York Islanders (46-28-6, 98 pts) at the CONSOL Energy Center (7:00 PM Eastern).
Pittsburgh looked like a lock for the postseason short weeks ago, but have fallen off the pace since then, losing three straight and going just 3-5-2 in its last ten. Now the Pens are just one point up on ninth-place Boston for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (though they do have a game in hand on the Bs).
The team let a huge opportunity to clinch slip away on Tuesday, letting an early 3-0 lead slip away against Ottawa, ultimately falling 4-3 in OT. Pittsburgh was absolutely dominated after the first period by the desperate Senators, getting outshot 37-16 over the final 40 minutes and OT.
“We’ve got to wipe this one away,” said Crosby. “We’ve got two games left to earn the right to play in the playoffs. It’s up to us now, but we’ve got to forget this one pretty quick.”
Tonight, Pittsburgh will be facing an Islanders team on a similar slide. New York has clinched a playoff spot by the skin of its teeth, but has an identical 3-5-2 record in its last ten games and has dropped nine of their last 12.
The Isles lost 5-4 to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night in heartbreaking fashion. New York scored three unanswered in the third to tie the game at four, including one in the final minute from center John Tavares; but goalie Jaroslav Halak let a soft wrist shot from the blueline get past him with just two seconds on the clock.
“The puck has bounced crazy for us this year and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said after the crushing loss. “You have to put it behind and move forward.”
Turning to the trends, Pittsburgh has won six of the last ten games in the series, but the Islanders have won the last three. Pittsburgh should be the more desperate team tonight, but with both teams struggling to keep the puck out of their net, the best play may be the over (5.5).
(Photo credit: Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)