The New York Islanders got to playoff form three weeks before the playoffs, about the same time that the Florida Panthers began playing like an expansion team.
It paid off for the Islanders, who beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-0, Wednesday night at St. Petersburg, Fla., to wrap up the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
They won't even have to travel when the playoffs open Sunday because they begin play against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Steve Thomas scored twice and Ron Hextall made 30 saves for his fifth shutout of the season for the Islanders, who finished the regular season 5-0-3 at the same time the Panthers were going 0-4-4 and falling from contention. New York made up nine points on Florida in the closing weeks of the season to move into eighth place, the final playoff position.
"It's been very exciting in our last eight games," New York Coach Al Arbour said. "We've been finding ways to win. Early in the year we were finding ways to lose. Now we have to keep winning."
Detroit 9, Montreal 0--Ray Sheppard, Keith Primeau and Shawn Burr scored twice and Bob Essensa made 24 saves as the Red Wings won at Detroit to clinch the Western Conference championship.
The nine-goal margin equaled the worst loss in Montreal's 77-year history.
Boston 8, Ottawa 0--Vincent Riendeau recorded his first shutout of the season and Bryan Smolinski scored twice as the Bruins won at Ottawa.
San Jose 2, Edmonton 2--The Sharks' Arturs Irbe made 22 saves at San Jose and established a league record for minutes played in a season, 4,407.