By losing to the Maple Leafs on Monday and failing to close in on the Capitals, the Islanders left themselves open to losing control of their destiny as they hope to open the playoffs next week at Nassau Coliseum.
But the idle Isles caught two breaks on Tuesday when the Penguins, who are two points behind the Isles in third place in the Metropolitan Division, lost 4-1 to a lottery-bound Red Wings team, and the Blue Jackets fell 6-2 to the Bruins. Carolina defeated Toronto 4-1 to jump Columbus in the standings.
The Islanders are now back in the driver's seat when it comes to earning home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They're in the same spot they were in entering Monday's game, albeit with two games remaining now instead of three. They're three points behind Washington for the division lead and two points ahead of Pittsburgh for the No. 2 spot in the division.
And because the Blue Jackets lost, the Islanders now cannot fall to the second wild-card spot -- which was a remote possibility to begin with -- and will avoid having to face the Lightning in the first round. Columbus can max out at 98 points; the Islanders have 99.
None of the relevant Metro division teams play on Wednesday. The Isles are at Florida on Thursday while Washington hosts a Montreal team which is desperate to try to get into the playoffs. A Capitals win or an Islanders regulation loss would clinch the division for Washington. The division will still be in play for the Isles entering their Saturday finale at Washington if they win and the Capitals pick up one point on Thursday.
If the Islanders win Thursday and the Penguins don't get a regulation or overtime win (ROW,) the Isles will secure home-ice in the first round.