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NHL Friday review: Islanders add to Wild Card lead

Only the New York Islanders were able to pick up a point in the Eastern Conference Wild Card race on Friday, while the Winnipeg Jets were able to keep distance between themselves and Nashville Predators with an important victory in the Western Conference Wild Card battle.

The New Jersey Devils need another opportunity to book their playoff place after defeat to Buffalo Sabres, the Vegas Golden Knights may have another headache in net, Auston Matthews has hit form at the right time for Toronto Maple Leafs and Jon Cooper wants more from his Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Islanders increased their lead in the Eastern Conference Wild Card race via a 5-4 overtime loss to Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Islanders (37-27-9) rallied to tie the game with two goals in the third period and moved three points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins (35-27-10), who have one game in hand, for the first Wild Card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the East.

Pittsburgh were beaten 3-2 by Central Division leaders Dallas Stars the night previous and the Florida Panthers (36-29-7) weren't able to capitalise either with a 6-2 defeat to Toronto Maple Leafs which leaves them one point behind the Penguins and outside of a playoff position.

The Islanders are -250 and Penguins -200 To Reach The Playoffs and the Panthers -175.

Jets hold off Predators

The Jets (41-29-3) beat Anaheim Ducks 3-2 to stay five points ahead of the Predators in the second Wild Card position in the Western Conference.

The Predators (36-26-8) stayed within touching distance with a crucial 2-1 victory over Seattle Kraken who have a one-point lead over the Jets for the first Wild Card Spot.

After a slight skid which saw them fall down the Central Division, the Jets have won three of their past four games and are -370 To Reach The Playoffs.

Nashville have three games in hand over the Jets and one over the Kraken who they trail by six points and they are +360 To Reach The Playoffs.

Devils must wait for playoff spot

The Devils haven't made the playoffs for four seasons and the wait to officially end that drought goes on after a 5-4 defeat to the Sabres.

New Jersey (45-19-8) would have become the third NHL team after Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes to clinch a playoff berth with victory and will have another opportunity when they host Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

Led by a young core of high draft picks, the Devils not only expect to book their playoff ticket shortly, but they have high hopes of going on a deep run and they are +600 To Win The Eastern Conference and +1200 To Win The Stanley Cup.

The Devils are just two points behind the Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division, though, the leaders have two games in hand.

Thompson injured again

The Vegas Golden Knights (45-21-6) extended their lead at the top of the Pacific Division to four points with a 3-2 win over Calgary Flames, but it came with a blow as goalie Logan Thompson was forced to leave the game with a lower-body injury.

The 26-year-old was making his first start since early February and made 37 saves before having to be replaced by Jonathan Quick who was acquired ahead of the trade deadline to provide cover in net.

Despite being without Thompson for 18 games, the Golden Knights have kept hold of first place in the Pacific by winning three in a row and 10 of their last 12.

Thompson has a 21-13-3 record with a .915 save percentage and 2.65 goals-against-average (GAA) and ahead of his injury was in the running to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year.

If Thompson is to miss time again, the number-one role will fall to 37-year-old Quick who is 5-1-0 with a .908 save percentage and 2.93 GAA in a Vegas uniform.

Matthews heating up for Leafs

The most pleasing thing for Toronto in their victory over Panthers was to have All-Star forward Matthews on the scoresheet twice.

Matthews won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player in the NHL last season after becoming the first Maple Leaf to score 60 goals.

Hampered by a niggling upper-body injury, the American got off to a relatively slow start to the current season but with six goals in his last 10 games, Matthews appears to have hit form at just the right time.

The Leafs (43-19-9) hold a five-point lead over their all but certain playoff opponent Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division and with two games in hand as well look set to earn home ice advantage where they are 25-7-5 and second best in the NHL.

Toronto haven't won a playoff series since 2004, but if they can get that monkey off their back they are +900 To Win The Stanley Cup which would end a record 55-year wait.

Cooper challenges Lightning

The Lightning (42-25-6) have lost three in a row, most recently 7-2 against Ottawa Senators, which led coach Jon Cooper to challenge his team to quickly find momentum ahead of their post-season meeting with the Leafs.

Cooper has led the Lightning to three straight Stanley Cup Finals and they are +1700 To Win The Stanley Cup which they won back-to-back before losing it to Colorado Avalanche last season.

Losing home ice advantage to the Leafs won't be the end of the world for Cooper's side who didn't have it last season when they met Toronto at the same stage and won Game 7 at Scotiabank Arena to progress.

But, 5-4-1 in their past 10 and making mental errors which are proving costly, Cooper has demanded that his side re-focus as he more than anyone knows that form can't be turned on like a switch come playoff time.

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