PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinal; tied 1-1.
The New York Islanders went unbeaten at home during last season’s playoffs.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t win one on the road.
Coming home with a surprising split of the first two games in Ottawa, the Islanders hope to use home ice to their advantage as they host Game 3 of their best-of-seven first-round series with the top-seeded Senators.
With a tight defense, Garth Snow backed the eighth-seeded Islanders to a 3-0 victory over Ottawa in Game 1 on Wednesday. However, the Senators bounced right back Saturday, cruising to a 3-0 win of their own behind two goals from Marian Hossa and Patrick Lalime’s solid goaltending.
“In Game 1, we were a different team and (Saturday) we proved we were back and we played simple hockey,” said Hossa, who established a franchise record with 45 goals during the regular season.
The Islanders—3-0 at the Nassau Coliseum against Toronto in the first round last year in a series New York lost in seven games—are anxious to get back to Long Island and jump back on top of Ottawa.
“We got outplayed (in Game 2),” Islanders coach Peter Laviolette admitted. “We’ll move on and look forward to going home to our fans. It’s been a good place for us in the playoffs. We know we got a good dose of Ottawa (Saturday). It was a good kick in the teeth for us.”
The Senators, who didn’t lose consecutive games during the entire season, haven’t had much trouble on Long Island in recent years.
Ottawa enters Game 3 riding a prodigious 14-game road unbeaten streak in the series. The Senators went 1-0-1 at the Coliseum this season and are 10-0-4 on the road against the Islanders dating to a 5-4 loss on Jan. 6, 1996.
“We have to go in there and take away their confidence,” center Shaun Van Allen said. “It’s a good rink for us to play in.”
Known primarily as a finesse team in recent years, the Senators have already established that they will be much more physical during this playoff run.
“I think they hit everybody,” Laviolette said after Game 2. “I did notice they were skating. The whole game of hockey right now in the National Hockey League is skating. The first game we skated, the second game they skated. The results are justified.”
While the Senators took criticism for being overly physical in the Game 1 loss, they proved Saturday that they could play tough hockey without sacrificing their offensive game.
“We have to be more physical if we want to win,” said Ottawa’s Magnus Arvedson. “Hitting them maybe we get them tired and then they won’t play as well, but we can’t go out looking for hits.
“It’s important to be in the right position.”
Islander forward Eric Goddard is expected to be back after serving a one-game suspension for a high stick to Chris Neil’s head in Game 1.
However, New York center Jason Wiemer was assessed a match penalty in Game 2 for head-butting Neil—a play that is being reviewed by the NHL.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Senators - 113 points; 1st seed. Islanders - 83 points; 8th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Hossa, 2 goals and 2 points; five tied with 1 assist; Neil, 9 PIM. Islanders - three with 1 goal; Roman Hamrlik, 2 assists and 2 points; Arron Asham and Wiemer, 14 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Senators - Power play: 7.1 percent (1 for 14). Penalty killing: 90.9 percent (10 for 11). Islanders - Power play: 9.1 percent (1 for 11). Penalty killing: 92.9 percent (1 for 14).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Senators, 2-1-1. The Senators extended their overall unbeaten streak against the Islanders to 11 with two wins and a tie in the first three meetings before New York posted a 5-2 road win March 15. Hossa had three goals and eight points in the series, while former Senator Alexei Yashin and rookie Mattias Weinhandl had four points apiece for the Islanders.