The month of February began with the New York Islanders attempting to shake off a two-game losing streak shortly after the All-Star break. The losing streak would be pushed to three on the third of February when the Florida Panthers came to town.
The Panthers beat the Islanders 4-2 and former Islander great, now color commentator for the Panthers, Denis Potvin, ripped local officials a new one for their failure to keep the team on Long Island. It was Potvin’s last time visiting the building in which he helped build the Islanders dynasty of the 1980’s along with his own legacy as one of the greatest defensemen in the NHL and his comments reflect how most Islander fans feel about Nassau County politicians after losing the team.
The Islanders looked like they were heading for a fourth straight loss until they scored twice late in the second period to erase a 2-0 deficit. Mikhail Grabovski scored the first goal to cut the lead in half. Cal Clutterbuck scored the tying goal just two minutes later and would score the winning goal in the seventh round of the shootout.
The Islanders couldn’t carry the momentum over to Boston as they lost the following game to the Bruins 2-1 with former Bruin Chad Johnson in net.
When you hit a rough patch in the NHL, what better team to play than the Buffalo Sabres? Luckily for the Islanders, they had a Sunday afternoon matchup with the Sabres the following day. The Islanders jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but struggled to hold on to it as they let up two goals in the second period to let the Sabres back in the game. Neither team would score in the third period and the Islanders held on to beat the Sabres 3-2.
The Islanders would go on a tear for the following week, stringing together 3-2 wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers, capping it off with a 6-3 thrashing of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Valentines Day.
The Isles looked to carry their momentum into a key matchup with their rivals across the river, the New York Rangers. At first it appeared the Islanders were riding their momentum into that game, jumping out to an early two-goal lead. However, in typical Islanders fashion, they blew not one, but two two-goal leads and fell to the Rangers 6-5 in one of the most memorable matchups between the two teams in recent memory.
But the Islanders did not have much time to dwell on their loss to the Rangers. The very next night they were back at it in Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the Hurricanes. The Islanders took care of business with a 4-1 win over Carolina. They completed their brief tour of the south with a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators, who at the time had the best record in the NHL.
The Islanders lost a Saturday afternoon game in Washington against the Capitals in a shootout 3-2. That game would come back to haunt them, as they only needed one more point to get home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. And as we all unfortunately know, the Islanders fell in the first round to the Capitals in seven games, losing Game 7 by just one goal.
The next day the Islanders were back on Long Island to take on the Canucks, but they might as well have missed the bus home as they didn’t show up to that game and Vancouver dominated 4-0. The Islanders won their next two games at home 5-1 and 2-1 over the Arizona Coyotes and Calgary Flames respectively.
The Isles finished the month of February with a 5-3 loss to the Hurricanes. In retrospect, I’m sure that is a game they wish they had back.
Overall, February was a strong month for the Islanders. They finished the month with nine wins five losses and one shootout loss. The Islanders had a brutal stretch of the schedule on the horizon in the month of March, so having a strong showing in February was key for the team to stay relevant in the mix as the playoff race began to take form.