Holmstrom scores late winner, Palmieri notches 30th as Islanders beat Penguins 5-4 in regular-season finale

Islanders Penguins Kyle Palmieri
Photo: Kevin Kane/KK Images

ELMONT, N.Y. — Kyle Palmieri recorded his 30th goal of the season and Simon Holmstrom scored the game-winner with 5:33 remaining in regulation to lift the Islanders to a 5-4 regular-season finale victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night at UBS Arena.

It was one of three goals scored in the final stanza — Pittsburgh’s Jeff Carter scored a power-play goal with 9:04 remaining in regulation to void Samuel Bolduc’s go-ahead tally, also on the man advantage, for the Islanders just 1:36 into the third.

“It was very entertaining for our fans,” 

Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin preserved the win with 29.5 seconds to go by saving a Sidney Crosby penalty shot after Brock Nelson illegally covered the puck with his hand in the crease of his netminder after a mad scramble in front. He made 39 saves in the win.

“It’s like in a dream,” Sorokin said of his sprawling glove stop on Crosby’s deke to the backhand while cutting across the face of goal from the left wall. “I was just waiting to see what he was doing… It’s a good moment more me.”

Nelson and Casey Cizikas scored before Palmieri hit the 30-goal mark for the second time in his 14-year career late in the second period. He first hit that mark in 2015-16 with the New Jersey Devils. Nelson and Bolduc each recorded a goal and an assist.

“It’s nice and things like that,” Palmieri said of hitting the 30-goal mark. “I’ll enjoy it tonight and just mentally and physically get ready for the series against Carolina.”

The Islanders finish the season with 94 points (39-27-16) while winning nine of their final 10 games to clinch a playoff berth on Monday. With their place already cemented in the playoffs with a first-round matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes looming, they gave nights off to Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Pierre Engvall, and Hudson Fasching.

They would be down one more forward midway through the first period when Jean-Gabriel Pageau left with an undisclosed injury. The absences allowed 23-year-old winger Ruslan Iskhakov to make his NHL debut. The AHL All-Star recorded an assist in his first taste of life in the NHL.

“That was a great experience,” Iskhakov said. “I’m glad we won. I’m sure that’s going to give them a boost for their first game in Carolina.”

The Islanders grabbed the lead 4:56 into the game when Holmstrom received a slap-pass from Palmieri to start a 2-on-1 break with Nelson. Entering the zone on the right side and heading into the circle, he sent a feed to the opposite post where Nelson was waiting to pop it over Penguins goalie Alex Nedeljkovic.

Nelson’s 34th goal of the season was his fourth in the last three games and the finishing touch to a third-consecutive 30-goal campaign.

Rickard Rakell drew the Penguins level with 1:31 to go in the period when he snuck a wrist shot under the arm of Sorokin. Evgeni Malkin gave the visitors the lead on the power play 6:14 into the second period when he poked a back-post pass from Sidney Crosby.

The Penguins had a third goal waved off less than a minute later when a long clear hit defenseman Robert Bortuzzo at the blue line and into the path of Valtteri Puustinen, who went in alone on Sorokin and beat him. But after an Islanders challenge it was ruled the play was offside.

Cizikas tied things up with 6:41 left in the second when he deflected a shot from the point by Alex Romanov past Nedeljkovic. It didn’t last long, though, as Puustinen beat Sorokin 1:18 later — and this one counted.

Palmieri notched his 30th goal of the season with 15.5 seconds left in the period on the power play, one-timing a Nelson cross-ice feed.

“I’m very happy for Palms,” Roy said. “He’s a leader on our team and he’s been playing so well. To see him get that goal… it’s nice to see him be in that position… I’m very happy for him.”

Bolduc put New York back in front 1:36 into the third period when a shanked shot from the point went off Penguins defenseman Ryan Shea and in. It provided Iskhakov with his first NHL point as he recorded the secondary assist on the play.

With the game tied at four, Holmstrom received a slick backhanded pass from Kyle MacLean before snapping a wrister from the left circle. 

“He made an unbelievable pass,” Holmstrom said of MacLean’s feed. “I was just trying to put in.”

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