Senators beat Islanders 5-1 to clinch playoff spot
Ottawa Senators' Sergei Gonchar, right, scores a goal past New York Islanders goalie Al Montoya during the second period of the NHL hockey game on Sunday, April 1, 2012, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. - No captain Daniel Alfredsson. No scoring leader Jason Spezza. No problem against the New York Islanders.
Kyle Turris scored twice and had a pair of assists, Milan Michalek added his team-leading 35th goal and the Ottawa Senators clinched a post-season berth with a 5-1 victory over the Islanders on Sunday.
The Senators won their fourth straight game to move four points behind idle New Jersey for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Alfredsson was absent because of the flu and Spezza — pacing Ottawa with 82 points — was with his wife for the birth of their second daughter. The absences didn't faze their teammates.
"We knew we were missing two key guys but we played a very solid and focused team game," said Senators coach Paul MacLean, who reached the post-season in his first season as an NHL head coach. "The leadership on our team did a tremendous job all season to pull us up by our bootstraps and create a winning foundation."
The Senators, with 92 points, are four ahead of eighth-place Washington. Both teams have three games left before the NHL's regular season ends Saturday.
The Islanders lost their second straight at home after two rousing wins over Pittsburgh to reach the .500 mark. New York was eliminated from playoff contention for a fifth straight season Saturday with a 6-3 home loss to Boston.
"There was no urgency in our game tonight," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.
Islanders defenceman Mark Streit opened the scoring with his seventh goal of the season on a pass from John Tavares at 7:55 of the first period. It was the only shot to elude Craig Anderson, who made 29 saves.
Turris, acquired from Phoenix on Dec. 17, tied it with his 11th goal with 3:20 left in the first on assists from Michalek and defenceman Sergei Gonchar.
Gonchar scored at 3:09 of the second after a slick behind-the-back pass from Michalek, whipping the puck past Islanders goaltender Al Montoya. It was Gonchar's fifth of the season.
Michalek pushed it to 3-1 roughly 3 minutes later, and Nick Foligno scored with 6:39 left in the period to make it 4-1. Turris added his second of the game 7 minutes into the third.
"What a great feeling this is, to know we are in the playoffs," said the 22-year-old Turris, the third overall pick by the Coyotes in 2007. "It was fun skating on a line with Milan tonight and doing so well. Definitely, this is a satisfying night for me."
Ottawa dropped a 2-1 overtime decision at home to the Islanders on Feb. 3, but has outscored them 16-3 in three meetings since — all victories.
The Senators routed New York 6-0 on the road Feb. 20, getting two goals and four points from Erik Karlsson, who leads all NHL defenceman with 78 points. Ottawa also beat the Islanders 5-2 at home on Feb. 26.
"Tonight was another example of how well we can play as a team," said Michalek, who hadn't scored more than 26 goals in a season before this year. "We gave up the first goal but came back and took control of the game."
The Senators missed the playoffs last season and haven't advanced past the first round since they reached the 2007 Stanley Cup finals, losing to Anaheim in five games.
"We're going in the right direction, coming together at the right time and playing hard as a team," said defenceman Chris Phillips, who made his debut with the Senators in 1997. "We had a lot to prove this year and we've done well with that so far. Now we look to the playoffs."
New York had won three straight and five of six coming into this weekend.
NOTES: The Islanders fell to 19-42-14 against the Senators. ... Matt Moulson extended his games streak to 243. He hasn't missed a game in his Islanders career. ... Karlsson is the youngest NHL defenceman to reach the 70-point mark since Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers did it in 1988-89.