It's been a long time (6 years) since an April Isles-Leafs game was so important.
Check out the standings before the Islanders hosted the Leafs on April 5, 2007 - the final Thursday of that regular season. The Isles, despite a shootout win over the Rangers two nights earlier, were a long shot to make the playoffs - a very long shot as I explained here: http://www.nyiskinny.com/2007/04/permutations-and-combinations.html
Jason Blake's 40th goal midway thru the third turned out to be the game-winner as the Isles, behind Wade Dubielewicz, defeated Toronto 5-2 in their home finale.
AP on the game: http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/recap?gid=2007040512
That got the Isles to 88 points, but both the Isles and Leafs would have been eliminated that night had they not gotten help.
Ironically that help came from the Rangers, who beat Montreal 3-1 at the Garden to clinch a spot for the Rangers. Ira Podell wrote for AP: "In a strange twist, the Rangers' win kept the Islanders' playoff hopes alive. The Rangers will be either the sixth or seventh seed. The Islanders, Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs—who lost on Long Island on Thursday—are fighting for the final Eastern spot."
The Isles would beat Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon to get to 90 points, tying Montreal. However, a Canadien win over Toronto (in the final game for both teams) would have eliminated the Isles that night. Toronto instead eliminated Montreal in crazy game, winning 6-5 at the ACC. That left the Isles one point behind Toronto and tied with Montreal for 9th place. Since Toronto owned the tie-breaker with the Islanders, the Isles needed a win to get in. It all came down to the Easter Sunday shootout in New Jersey, which was won by Wade Dubielewicz' poke check.
That put the Isles into the playoffs (they have not been back since) and left the Leafs on the sidelines.
2012-13 Playoff Picture
Toronto has not made the playoffs since 2004 -- a drought that will almost certainly end this season. Toronto in fact can clinch a playoff spot tonight with either of the following:
Toronto Regulation/Overtime Win and Winnipeg Regulation/Overtime/Shootout Loss
Toronto Shootout Win and Winnipeg Regulation Loss
As I noted yesterday, an Islander Regulation/Overtime/Shootout win tonight, coupled with a Winnipeg regulation loss to Carolina would put the Isles in position to clinch a playoff spot with a regulation win in Winnipeg on Saturday.
Forever1940 is the nom de plume of Eric Hornick, statistician on Islander home telecasts since January 21, 1982. Visit my blog: NYISkinny.com and follow me on Twitter @ehornick
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