Isles clinch playoff berth

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
10:55
PM ET
IslandersJames Guillory/USA TODAY SportsThe Islanders didn't come away with a win on Tuesday. But who cares?
The Islanders didn't leave Carolina with a win Tuesday night, but you can bet there will still be one heck of a celebration on the team's flight home.

For the first time since 2007, the Islanders are headed to the playoffs.

With a point earned in a 4-3 shootout loss to Carolina, coupled with the Capitals' 5-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets in Washington, D.C., the Isles reached their magic number (3) to clinch a playoff spot and punch their ticket for the first time in six years.

Heading into Tuesday's action, the Jets were the only team not among the top eight that had the potential to knock the Isles out, but the Jets fell in regulation as the Caps clinched the Southeast Division title and claimed the coveted No. 3 seed.

If the Islanders remain in sixth place, where they currently sit with 54 points, they'd draw the Caps in a first-round matchup. The Isles could finish as high as the fifth seed or as low as the eighth seed, but regardless, they will be playing meaningful games in May.

Tuesday marked a significant moment for the franchise, as its long-suffering fan base was rewarded for enduring some pretty bleak times in recent years. The Islanders finished in the bottom five teams for five straight seasons before a drastic turnaround in 2013.

Led by superstar center John Tavares, who will likely garner consideration for the Hart Trophy, the Islanders have earned 17 of 20 points in their past 10 games. The team's second line of Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo has been tremendous, and veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov has been impressive in net.

And to make Isles fans' night a little better?

The Rangers also had the chance to clinch but couldn't make it happen. A regulation win over the Panthers would've been enough with the Jets' regulation loss, but the Blueshirts dropped a 3-2 decision in Florida.

The Rangers are now locked up with the Jets and Ottawa Senators in a three-way battle for the last two playoff spots up for grabs.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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