The Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders were separated by fewer than 20 miles Saturday afternoon, when the Wild served notice they are not ready to fall out of the Western Conference postseason race.
Meanwhile, the Islanders offered another reminder they need to be taken seriously as a legitimate contender to make a deep playoff run in the Eastern Conference.
The Wild and Islanders will look to build on Saturday's momentum on Sunday afternoon, when New York hosts Minnesota at Barclays Center.
The Wild snapped a four-game losing streak Saturday afternoon when it beat the host New Jersey Devils 4-2 at Prudential Center. The Islanders mounted a stirring comeback from an early two-goal deficit and then bounced back from allowing the tying goal in the waning minutes of regulation thanks to Ryan Pulock, who scored 2:23 into overtime to give New York a 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche at home.
Minnesota's victory over the Devils came in head coach Bruce Boudreau's 900th game behind an NHL bench. But Boudreau was far less concerned with the milestone than what Saturday's win might mean going forward for the Wild, who vaulted into sole possession of the first wild card spot in the West. Minnesota has played two more games than the current second wild card, the St. Louis Blues.
Asked after Saturday's win if he would associate good memories with his 900th game, Boudreau grinned.
"Well, I hope, yeah," Boudreau said. "I hope at the end of the year I go, 'Yeah, that was the one that got us in.' "
The Islanders, who have gone 18-4-2 since Dec. 15 to leap into first place in the Metropolitan Division, probably will not need Saturday's win to make the playoffs. But the rollercoaster victory is more evidence there's nothing fluky about New York's surge under first-year head coach Barry Trotz.
The comeback Saturday marked the fifth straight game the Islanders have won after trailing 2-0, a streak that dates back to Dec. 1.
"Getting down early like that, it's never easy," Islanders center Casey Cizikas told reporters following the win. "We've shown it all year. There's no quit in this group. We just keep rolling."
The No. 1 goalies for the Wild and Islanders -- Devan Dubnyk and Robin Lehner, respectively -- both started and won Saturday, so backups Alex Stalock and Thomas Greiss are likely to be in the nets Sunday.
Stalock has not played since Feb. 2, when he took the loss after making 27 saves as the Wild fell to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime. Greiss last saw action Thursday, when he earned the win by recording 30 saves as the Islanders edged the New Jersey Devils 2-1.
Stalock is 0-2-1 in three career regular season appearances against the Islanders. Greiss is 3-3-0 in six games against the Wild.
The Islanders will be playing their penultimate game of the regular season at Barclays Center. Following next Saturday's game against the Edmonton Oilers, New York will play its final scheduled 12 games at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. However, it is still not known where the team will play postseason games.
--Field Level Media