UNIONDALE, N.Y. - For the Boston Bruins, their future is immediate. For the New York Islanders, their future starts next season.
Phil Kessel had three goals and an assist to help the Bruins wrap up their Eastern Conference championship with a 6-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Sunday. Michael Ryder, Marc Savard and Chuck Kobasew also scored for the Bruins, who will face Montreal in the first round of the playoffs.
Tim Thomas made 32 saves for his 36th victory.
"It's always good to get the win and take a little confidence with us going into Thursday," Thomas said. "We didn't have our best on Saturday night, so it's always good to come up with a good effort for ourselves."
Boston got hammered 5-1 in Buffalo on Saturday.
"We played a team that was out of it yesterday, and we were just absolutely atrocious," Bruins defenceman Aaron Ward said. "Today was more or less a chance for us to right the ship."
Radek Martinek and Doug Weight scored for New York. The Islanders finished last overall in the NHL, losing their last four games. They had 47 regulation losses.
"It's not fun winding up the worst team in the league," Weight said. "It can only get better from here."
It might not have been fun, but Islanders coach Scott Gordon liked some of the past season.
"We have some elements of team identity to carry over into next season," Gordon said. "The second half of the season flew by with the attitude and commitment we had."
Yann Danis started in goal and stopped 11 shots before giving way to Joey MacDonald, who made 16 more saves.
The Bruins took only 23 seconds to open the scoring. David Krejci broke in on a 2-on-1 with Ryder and passed the puck over to his linemate, who quickly shot the puck past Danis.
Boston struck again with 4:40 left in the first period. Danis made a pad save on Blake Wheeler's shot, but the rebound bounced out to an uncovered Kessel, who simply put it in the open left side.
Early in the second period, Thomas made the save of the game while Boston was on the power play. He dove in the crease to get his glove on Richard Park's wrist shot.
Boston then skated down the other end, and Savard cashed in on the power play for his 25th goal of the season at 1:09.
The same thing happened a few minutes later.
Thomas poke-checked the puck off Tim Jackman's stick on a short-handed breakaway, and Kessel wound up with his second of the game at 5:27, again on a power play.
At that point, Danis was pulled for MacDonald. The first shot MacDonald faced went past him into the net off the stick of Kobasew at 7:02.
"We were able to score some goals," Boston forward Milan Lucic said. "We gave a better effort than we did yesterday."
The Islanders broke Thomas' shutout bid with 1:51 left in the second period when Martinek's left point slap shot went in.
Weight added a goal 87 seconds into the third period to make it 5-2.
Kessel notched the hat trick on a one-timer at 12:53. The former University of Minnesota star had a team-high 36 goals in 70 games.
The Islanders await Tuesday night, when they find out if they'll draft first or second in Montreal on June 26. Rookie forward Josh Bailey is excited.
"Whoever we get, we'll welcome him with open arms," Bailey said. "It can only help us."
A thought seconded by forward Kyle Okposo.
"The second half speaks volumes about the character in this locker room," Okposo said.
Notes: Though the Islanders finished the season with the worst record of all 30 teams in the NHL, they were a respectable 17-18-6 at home. ... The Islanders also finished their 37th season, and for the first time ever, they finished without a 20-goal scorer on their roster.