New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has relayed the message that in a Stanley Cup semifinal against the Tampa Bay Lightning tied at two games apiece, things have only just begun.
A thrilling Islanders win on Saturday night has set up a best-of-three series beginning on Monday night in Game 5 in Tampa Bay (8 p.m. ET) — a place they already stole a win in Game 1 to momentarily take their first lead in a Stanley Cup semifinal since 1984.
Now they’ll have a chance to re-gain that series lead.
“The further you go in the series, the harder it gets,” Islanders winger Anthony Beauvillier said. “That’s what [Trotz probably] means by that.
“Game 5 is going to be harder than the last game so we have to be at our best and they have to be at their best. We’re going to be ready for that and I’m sure they will, too.”
So far, the script against the Lightning has been eerily similar to what the Islanders have done in the previous two rounds of this year’s playoffs. They split the first two road games and lost Game 3 at home before winning Game 4. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins, the Islanders won Game 5 to set up a closeout situation at Nassau Coliseum for Game 6.
“We have a confident group. We’ve had a confident group all year and that’s carried into the playoffs,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “Looking back at Game 5’s, we’ve stolen a couple… we know what we have to do.
“We know we have to play on the road, we know they’re going to have a good push… it’s a three-game series now and two of them are on the road. We know what we have to do and play our game.”
Composure from the Islanders played a massive part in knotting the series back up on Saturday — not only in Ryan Pulocks’ game-saving block at the buzzer, but also the fact that Trotz’s men were on the penalty kill just one time on Saturday night.
Keeping the Lightning’s man-advantage opportunities to a minimum is vital for the Islanders’ chances and one that Trotz has stressed to his team all throughout the series, especially after Game 2 that saw New York get suckered into Tampa Bay’s mischief after plays were blown dead.
“We’ve been playing disciplined. We’ve been playing from whistle to whistle,” Trotz said. “They have a couple guys who know that we’re not going to react who are getting their extra shot in. That says a lot about our commitment to winning…
“We’re not going to be able to stop [their power play] totally, but if we can prevent it from inflicting major damage on us, we want to do that… anything to limit their effectiveness, our guys are willing to do that. Being disciplined, not reacting… not doing anything unnecessarily, it helps and that’s the winning commitment and understanding of that.”