Kyle Palmieri's history-making triple led the Islanders to a huge win over the Bruins

NHL

The Islanders' playoff push is real.

Facing one of the best teams in hockey with a chance to win three in a row for the first time since December, the Islanders not only picked up two points, but an emphatic and excellent 5-1 win over the Bruins on the back of a first-ever natural hat trick from Kyle Palmieri.

The Isles' transformation under Patrick Roy took some time, but on Saturday – if it proves sustainable – they looked like a formidable product.

Kyle Palmieri (left) celebrates with Jean-Gabriel Pageau after completing a hat trick in the first period of the Islanders' 5-1 win over the Bruins. Robert Sabo for the New York Post

All four forwards were checked, played under hash marks and spent time in the offensive zone.

The Islanders – a team that is constantly criticized for their lack of speed – played just as fast as the Bruins. They destroyed the network. The death penalty was not dropped.

On an all-around basis, she qualified as the best 60-minute finisher of the season by a country mile.

“It probably couldn't have been drawn much better,” Palmieri said.

“Probably the best game of the season, in recent memory,” Brock Nelson said.

“I think we saw a team that was competing and wanted to keep going up,” said Jean-Gabriel Pageau. “That is our focus.”

A fan throws a hat onto the ice after Kyle Palmieri completed a hat-trick in the first period of the Islanders' win. Robert Sabo for the New York Post

Although the Flyers and Lightning have kept pace with wins, the Islanders have games in hand on both teams and have a two-point lead over the Red Wings, who lost to Florida.

More important than the standings is that they show something on the ice that makes the five-point gap with Philadelphia look like something they can close.

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Palmieri's hat-trick, the fastest to start a game in Islanders history and their first of the season, began 3:32 into the game when he beat Linus Ullmark off a rush.

Just less than two minutes later, after a penalty kick by James van Riemsdyk, Palmieri scored on a rebound from Bo Horvat to make it 2-0.

Anders Lee (right) celebrates after scoring a goal in the Islanders' win. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Conn

Then at 12:19, he was in the back of the net again blocking Ryan Bullock's initial shot.

It was the first hat-trick by an Islander in the first period since Jason Blake on February 27, 2007 against Philadelphia, and Palmieri's first since October 30, 2019, when he was with the Devils.

And Palmieri wasn't done yet, scoring his fourth point of the night just 46 seconds into the second period when Anders Lee finished off a one-man drive by scoring on a rebound.

“I think we made our decisions quickly and we were executing on them,” Palmieri said. “We were getting the puck quickly. The D's did a great job, the centers, of being in spots where we could break the puck and not giving them too much in the D. So credit to them.”

Ilya Sorokin made 22 saves in the Islanders' win. Robert Sabo for the New York Post

If there were lingering nightmares of the collapses that have been common for the Islanders at some points this season, and if no one in UBS Arena felt safe from there, they certainly did when Brock Nelson scored to make it 5-0 later in the second.

The perfect match was elusive, as Mason McLaughlin spoiled Ilya Sorokin's shot. But that wasn't far off.

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The Islanders still have a long way to go before they are on the right side of the playoffs.

But if there was any small thought about being sold at the trade deadline in general manager Lou Lamoriello's mind, it's certainly gone by now.

“I think it's about confidence now and the fact that they're playing with freedom,” Roy said. “They don't think. And it's hard to put it all in one sentence. The structure, the mentality, the fundamentals. It's hard. It takes time. I think that's what we did. We kind of built around that.”

“Sometimes you want a great start when the manager comes in and puts a band-aid on it, but that's not the way it works. It's playing the right way and I think now we're playing the right way.

The Islanders can't take their foot off the gas now. But they appear to be gathering the momentum needed to progress through the final six weeks of the season.

Not a moment too soon.




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