TAMPA, Fla. — The Islanders have been breaking their postseason droughts, and going into Saturday’s Game 2, they would like to snap a 33-year skid by taking a 2-0 series lead.
“It’s my third time being up 1-0, and going home up 2-0 would be huge,” Frans Nielsen said. “We’ve got to find a way to get that next one.”
The blueprint for the Islanders to take their first 2-0 series lead since the 1983 Stanley Cup Final was drawn up recently — in the first round. The Isles, coming off a 5-4 win over the Panthers in Game 1 that they perhaps did not deserve, were much more deserving in Game 2 in Sunrise, Florida. They threw 42 shots on Roberto Luongo but dropped a 3-1 decision.
“I’ll take that same kind of effort,” Jack Capuano said. “We probably shouldn’t have won Game 1 last round and we deserved to win Game 2. I’ll take 40-plus shots and the way we played that one.”
The way the Lightning swarmed Thomas Greiss in the final period on Wednesday night, closing a 4-1 gap to 4-3 before Cal Clutterbuck’s empty- netter iced it, the Islanders likely aren’t feeling overconfident. Tampa Bay’s fast forwards and active defensemen caused plenty of havoc in the Islanders’ zone in a way that the Panthers did not.
“They look a little like Chicago once they get in the zone, with five guys moving,” Nielsen said. “They don’t really work it down low with the two guys standing at the point. That means our communication has to be really good. As a forward, sometimes your back is to the play, especially when they come into the zone, so our D have to be calling out where they need us.”
The Lightning put its “Triplets” back together in Friday’s practice, with Ondrej Palat joining Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov to reunite the line that had so much success in Tampa Bay’s 2015 Cup Final run. Kucherov’s goal on Wednesday night, which cut the deficit to 4-2, came off a cross-ice feed after the Lightning had the Isles turned inside-out.
“Maybe now after a game you’ve got a feeling for who can play against who,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “No matter how much video you watch, it’s a team you don’t see that often, and now you have a better feel. And we just have to play much better than we did.”
To seize control of the series, the Islanders do, too. They had two chances to do that against the Panthers before closing out that series in six games. Even though the Isles already have accomplished something with a Game 1 road win for the third consecutive time, a two-game lead is what they’re looking for.
“We’ve put ourselves in good position again,” Nielsen said. “We’ve got to find a way to start taking advantage of it.”
Notes & quotes: Capuano reiterated that Ryan Pulock isn’t likely to be ready Saturday but could be for Tuesday night’s Game 3 at Barclays Center . . . Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman (leg) skated before his team’s practice but isn’t ready yet. Cooper said defenseman Matt Carle, who plays in Stralman’s spot with Victor Hedman, is day-to-day after missing Friday’s practice.