NEW YORK (AP) — Adam Pelech, Brock Nelson, Kyle Palmieri and Ryan Pulock all scored second-period goals, Ilya Sorokin made 29 saves and the New York Islanders kept pace in the Eastern Conference wild-card race with a 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
Simon Holmstrom and Bo Horvat also scored for the Islanders, who had lost their previous two games and three of their last five before emerging with two key points in a battle with Florida and Pittsburgh for the two wild-card spots. Nelson also had two assists.
All three teams won Thursday night. The Panthers and Islanders are tied with 89 points, with the Penguins just one point behind. Each has three games remaining.
“We didn’t really have any other choice at this time of the year,” Islanders forward Zach Parise said.
Kucherov ruined Sorokin’s shutout bid at 16:47 of the second with his 30th goal. It’s the sixth time in nine seasons Kucherov has reached the 30-goal mark.
Tampa Bay lost to the Rangers 6-3 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
“To win in this league, you have to do the right things and play the right way and if you don’t, you risk being embarrassed,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “And we’ve been embarrassed two nights in a row.”
Pelech scored at 3:46 of the middle period after a scoreless first during which the Islanders outshot the Lightning 13-3. Pelech’s shot eluded a cluster of traffic in front of Brian Elliott for the defenseman’s sixth goal of the season.
Nelson made it 2-0 with his 33rd goal at 9:54 before Palmieri scored 49 seconds later to give the Islanders a three-goal cushion.
Pulock increased the lead to 4-1 with his fifth goal with 20 seconds left in the second.
Islanders coach Lane Lambert was pleased with the production from defensemen Pelech and Pulock.
“Both those guys chipped in offensively and I thought they did a really good job of shutting down the top guys,” Lambert said.
Holmstrom added his sixth at 15:14 of the third. Bo Horvat closed out the scoring in the final minute.
Lightning forward Tanner Jeannot left midway through the second and didn’t return after he fell awkwardly and twisted his lower right leg while tangled with Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield. Lightning forward Pat Maroon also left with an upper-body injury.
Cooper said his injury concern for Jeannot was “high.” Jeannot joined the Lightning in a trade with Nashville on Feb. 26 for defenseman Cal Foote and five draft picks. The 25-year-old forward has a goal and three assists in 20 games for the Lightning.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos played his 1,000th game, becoming the second skater in Tampa Bay history to play 1,000 games with the club, joining Vincent Lecavalier. Stamkos was the first overall pick by the Lightning in 2008.
The two-time Stanley Cup winner has 514 goals and 1,052 points in 15 seasons with Tampa Bay, including a career-high 60 goals in 2011-12. Stamkos is tied with Islanders’ Hall-of-Fame defenseman Denis Potvin for 75th place on the all-time points list.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” the 33-year-old Stamkos said. ”It is pretty cool to say you did this all with one NHL team.”
Parise played his 160th consecutive game with the Islanders. The 38-year-old forward has played in every game since joining the team in October 2021. Parise has 21 goals and 33 points overall this season, his 18th in the NHL.
NOTES: The Islanders were without injured forward Mathew Barzal for the 20th straight game. … The Islanders also scratched forwards Josh Bailey and Ross Johnston, plus defensemen Alexander Romanov and Parker Wotherspoon. … The Lightning scratched forwards Brandon Hagel and Anthony Cirelli, plus defenseman Erik Cernak. … Tampa Bay won both previous meetings this season at home, 5-3 on Oct. 22 and 5-0 last Saturday.
Lightning: Visit the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
Islanders: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.