MONTREAL (NHL.com) - The Montreal Canadiens' chances of starting the Stanley Cup Playoffs at home were reduced significantly Thursday.
Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson scored and Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves to lead the New York Islanders to a 2-0 win against the Canadiens at Bell Centre.
The Canadiens' loss coupled with the 4-2 win by the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Philadelphia Flyers, cut Montreal's lead on Tampa Bay for second place in the Atlantic Division to one point. The Lightning have 94 points with two games to play and the Canadiens have 95 points with one game remaining, with Montreal holding the advantage in regulation and overtime wins, the first tiebreaker.
The Lightning host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday and finish the regular season at the Washington Capitals on Sunday. The Canadiens play their final game of the regular season Saturday at home against the New York Rangers, who clinched home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs Thursday.
The Canadiens were playing the back end of a back-to-back after losing 3-2 in overtime on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, a game Montreal led 2-1 in the final minute of regulation.
Islanders forward Johan Sundstrom left the game at 10:52 of the second period after going heavily into the boards on a hit by Canadiens defenseman Douglas Murray. Sundstrom was carrying the puck behind the Canadiens net when he was met at the other side by Murray, who hit him into the boards from behind. Sundstrom remained down for several minutes before being helped off the ice and being taken to a hospital for observation, according to the Islanders.
Murray, who was playing his first game after serving a three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Michael Kostka, was given a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct.
The Islanders, missing seven regulars to injury, had 11 rookies dressed for the game, including Sundstrom, and if it weren't for Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and his 28 saves those kids could have blown Montreal out.
The Islanders dominated the first half of the opening period, running up a 9-2 advantage in shots on goal by the midpoint of the first but failing to grab a lead.
The Islanders began the second period much the same way they did the first and sustained it for 20 minutes, outshooting Montreal 14-6 and grabbing a 2-0 lead before the second intermission.
The major penalty to Murray opened the door for the Islanders to open the scoring at 15:05 when Strome's shot went off the post to the right of Price, bounced off the camera inside the net and came out. The Islanders celebrated but the play needed to go to video review before the goal was confirmed.
Nelson made it 2-0 with 19.8 seconds to play in the second when he skated into the Montreal zone and fired a shot from the left circle that beat Price to the top corner on the short side.
The Canadiens did not start the third period any better, needing just over seven minutes to register their first shot on Nabokov, drawing a smattering of mock cheers from the Bell Centre crowd, and finishing with five shots in the period without ever really threatening to score.