Islanders staying focused against Bruins amid series deficit
The New York Islanders have been in this situation before — trailing in a series after three games. They're just keeping their focus on the next game.
They trailed 2-1 against Pittsburgh in the first round before winning three straight to take the series. Now, after losing Game 3 in overtime at home to Boston, they're trailing again against the Bruins, heading into Game 4 at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night.
“It’s not the end of the world, it’s one game,” New York coach Barry Trotz said. "We focus on tomorrow. If we get the job done tomorrow then it’s the best of three, and so it was against Pittsburgh.”
The Islanders know they need to stick to their style of hard-nosed, physical play and take advantage of opportunities they create.
“You just have to just keep continually buying into what you’re doing, staying through the process,” Trotz said. “Let it go, whatever happened last night. Obviously, we’d love to have won in overtime, but you didn’t. It’s no different than us going in Boston and getting the overtime winner (in Game 2). So, you know, you just put it in a rearview mirror, and focus on tomorrow."
That's the approach Trotz had with Washington's run to the Stanley Cup championship in 2018, as the Capitals trailed at some point in every playoff series before rebounding to win. That worked against the Penguins last month.
New York was able to shut down Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel in the first round, but haven't had the same level of success against the Bruins' Perfection Line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron. Boston's big trio has combined for six goals and six assists in the series, with Pastrnak getting a hat trick in Game 1, and Marchand scoring the tying goal in the third period of Game 2 and the overtime winner in Game 3.
“They’re different teams, they play a different style," Islanders forward Jordan Eberle said. "We’ve always been a group that has responded and our mindsets kind of just shifted to the next game. That’s all you can do, I mean, it’s short memories in the playoffs. There’s always gonna be highs and lows, we just continue to move forward. ... We have a huge game tomorrow and we need to be ready.”
The Bruins have been ready to match the the Islanders' physical play, responding with many hard hits of their own, and that's been fine with Boston coach Bruce Cassidy.
“The Islanders are known as an honest team so that’s what you’re getting, two teams that are willing to be physical,” he said. “Finished checks but again, you know, play hard between the whistles and try to do things the right way. ... Physically for the most part, it’s been a good series that way.”
Semyon Varlamov has been solid back in the net for the Islanders after struggling in the first round and getting replaced by Ilya Sorokin. After Sorokin dropped this series opener, Varlamov returned and has had consecutive 39-save efforts. He gave up an early goal to Craig Smith on Boston's second shot on goal of Game 3 — the fourth time in four starts he has allowed a goal within the opponents' first three shots — but then shut them down until Marchand beat him with a long, odd-angle shot in overtime.
Boston's Tuukka Rask has been equally unbeatable, stopping 83 of 90 shots through three games of this series. He had several spectacular saves in Game 3 to preserve Boston's lead until Mathew Barzal tied it late in the third period. He also had numerous stops after that when the Islanders pressed for the lead. Overall he has given up just 16 goals on 230 shots in the playoffs.
“We got to get in the interior a little bit more,” Trotz said. “It’s playoff hockey, it’s hard, it’s not easy getting there. ... You guys asked me, ‘Do you want more pressure on their goalie or more shots or more traffic?’ I’m going to say yes to all those questions. Doesn’t matter what year, what game. Yeah, more and more is better.”
Boston lost defenseman Brandon Carlo after a hard hit by Cal Clutterbuck early in the third period, and Cassidy said he was feeling better and was ’day to day,” but was uncertain of his status for Game 4. With Kevan Miller still recovering from his injury — he skated in Boston on Friday — Cassidy said Jarred Tinordi, Urbo Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril were candidates to replace Carlo if he is unable to play.
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