Anders Lee celebrates his go-ahead goal in the third period.
The Islanders don’t need any outside assistance, only to continue securing enough points in their remaining games, to clinch a second straight trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Despite a potentially costly injury to defenseman Travis Hamonic, the Isles moved closer to sealing a postseason berth by grinding out a 4-3 victory over John Tortorella’s eliminated Blue Jackets on Thursday night at Barclays Center.
John Tavares scored twice in the first period and Anders Lee netted the go-ahead goal in the third for the Isles, who have won four of five games following a 1-4-2 stretch. They can clinch a playoff spot as early as Saturday with a win over Pittsburgh — combined with three points lost by No. 9 Detroit in its games Friday (Minnesota) and Saturday (Toronto).
“In the position we’re in, if we take care of business things will work out for us,” Tavares said. “There’s not too much for us to worry about other than ourselves and the way we have to play.”
Still, this latest win might prove costly after Hamonic – the team leader in ice time per game (24:07) — departed following a knee-to-knee collision with Scott Hartnell in the first period.
Thomas Greiss makes 22 saves in net for the Islanders.
Last season, Hamonic suffered a torn MCL in his left knee in the Isles’ penultimate regular-season game and missed all seven games of their first-round playoff loss to Washington, although this collision involved his right knee.
“If he didn’t return, he’s a tough kid, so obviously there’s something there,” Capuano said. “You worry about that, I’m not going to lie to you.”
Former Ranger Brandon Dubinsky and Tavares traded early goals, before Thomas Hickey and Tavares also beat Sergei Brobovsky 41 seconds apart – the captain’s 29th of the season – by 18:32 of the first.
Thomas Greiss allowed a soft one – trickling through his pads on the power play — to Brandon Saad late in the second for a 3-2 game, before Boone Jenner tied it with a left-post slam 37 seconds into the third.
John Tavares scores twice for the Islanders.
But Lee, who netted the tying goal late in Tuesday’s shootout win over Carolina, put the Isles (42-25-9) back ahead when a man-advantage rebound glanced in off his skate at 5:23. They held on despite a scrambling finish, including one late Columbus power play.
“This was a gut-check win,” said Capuano, whose team moved within two points of the third-place Rangers with a game in hand. “It’s been an important few games for us, and could be the difference in us getting in.”
COLUMBUS ISLANDER: Columbus forward Sonny Milano, the 16th pick in the 2014 draft and a Massapequa, L.I. product, was recalled from AHL Lake Erie to make his NHL debut against his childhood team.