With a chance to finish off a sweep, the Islanders made some undisciplined and uncharacteristic mistakes in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers in game three. Those miscues, coupled with the Panthers playing desperate hockey as they were facing elimination, now means that the Islanders have to turn the page and set their sights on game four Friday in Toronto and another chance to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Although they are still ahead two games to one, the Islanders may have to flip the script on Friday and try to match Florida’s desperation.
“We gotta play desperate for sure in game four,” said Islanders forward Anthony Beauvillier who set up the Islanders’ first goal of game three with a pass to Jean-Gabriel Pageau. “They’re going to come hard and we’re going to have to come hard as well.”
A bench minor penalty for two many men on the ice early in the second period led to an Erik Haula goal, the first of two power play tallies for the Panthers in the game. The game was tied at 1-1 going to the third but Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov handled the puck outside of the trapezoid just seven seconds into the third period and it was a costly mistake as Mike Hoffman scored on the power play at the 41 second mark. A little over two minutes later, Brian Boyle made it 3-1 and the Islanders couldn’t come all the way back to force overtime.
But while the Islanders are still just one win away from wrapping up the series, they have to forget about game three and turn their attention to playing desperate hockey of their own in game four.
“We’re still in a good position,” said Pageau. “Now we just gotta focus again. Now we’re going to have to play with urgency the next game.”
A fast start for Friday’s noon face-off at Scotiabank Arena would certainly be a key for the Islanders who have fallen behind in the last two games. Getting back to playing the “Islander Way” with grit and discipline is the objective.
“I think we want to come out and set the tone,” said forward Josh Bailey. We’re still in a good spot here. This is the playoffs. This is the way things go. You can’t dwell on things. You gotta make sure you turn the page.”
Before the game three loss, the Islanders had beaten the Panthers in all five prior meetings this season. But the difference in game three was that the Islanders made critical errors at the wrong time and that played right into Florida’s hands with unnecessary power play opportunities for the Panthers and they have guys that put the puck in the net.
“They’re a good hockey team,” said Head Coach Barry Trotz. “They’re a very talented team and well coaches and they’ve got some star power. We got away a little bit from our game (in game three) but we have to get back to our game.”
If the Islanders can do that, they could very well be on their way to the traditional 16 team Stanley Cup Playoffs. If they don’t, it could mean a decisive game five on Sunday. Based on what we know about how the Islanders are spending life in the Toronto bubble, they’d rather be playing ping pong or in the case of some players, playing the guitar.
But first, they have to play some sweet music on the ice.