In the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final, the Islanders suffered a blowout loss in game one and a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in game two when the Lightning scored the game winning goal with less than nine seconds left in the third period. Being down two games to none is not the position the Islanders envisioned being in when the series started, but that’s the reality right now heading into game three on Friday night in Edmonton (8pm USA Network).
The Islanders can’t do anything about the first two games. All they can do is turn their attention to what directly lies ahead.
“Our focus is just on the next game,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz during a Zoom press conference with reporters on Thursday. “We can’t get those games back but we can get the next game. This series is really close to flipping here. Our game is back to where it should be.”
The Islanders did find their game in game two, but they couldn’t take advantage of some opportunities including a five-minute power play in the first period and a five on three advantage in the third period. And then Nikita Kucherov scored the game winning goal with 8.8 seconds remaining.
You can’t ask for a more gut-wrenching loss, so do the Islanders still believe they can still win the series?
“Yeah that belief is there,” said Islanders Captain Anders Lee. “We believe in ourselves and this group. You’re not going to dwell on the loss but you can look back on it and pick from it and build off of it.”
Islanders/Lightning Eastern Conference Final Schedule:
Game 1: Monday September 7th…Lightning 8 Islanders 2 (Tampa Bay leads 1-0)
Game 2: Wednesday September 9th…Lightning 2 Islanders 1 (Tampa Bay leads 2-0)
Game 3: Friday September 11th…Lightning vs Islanders…8pm USA Network
Game 4: Sunday September 13th…Lightning vs Islanders…3pm NBC
Game 5: Tuesday September 15th…Islanders vs Lightning…8pm NBCSN (If Necessary)
Game 6: Thursday September 17th…Lightning vs Islanders…8pm NBCSN (If Necessary)
Game 7: Saturday September 19th…Islanders vs Lightning…730pm NBC (If Necessary)
One area where the Islanders can’t definitely make an adjustment is getting more pucks to the net, especially on the struggling power play.
“I think we can shoot it a little more,” said Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck. “Rebounds are a lot harder to break up than direct passes. Direct passes can be anticipated. I think we can definitely do a better job of throwing pucks on (the net) and dealing with rebounds. We can probably do a better job shooting the puck.
The Islanders did not practice on Thursday as Trotz continues to try and give his team a break in-between games to stay fresh in the middle of this long playoff run. When they take the ice for game three, forward Brock Nelson is expected to play after taking a hit from behind from Alex Killorn in the first period of game two and had to go through concussion protocol. Nelson did return in the second period and was banged around a bit more, but it sounds like he’s good to go for game three.
“I think he looks like he will be available,” said Trotz. “He came back and he played so to me all signs would indicate that he’ll be playing.”
Through the qualifying round win over the Panthers and Capitals, the Islanders didn’t have to deal with much adversity as they beat Florida three games to one and Washington four games to one. But against the Flyers in the last round, the Islanders had a 3-1 series lead but lost games five and six before winning game seven.
And now here in the Eastern Conference Final, the Islanders are now faced with an 0-2 deficit but the message still remains the same when it comes to bouncing back when something doesn’t go your way.
“You have to be in the moment and you can’t worry about the results,” said Trotz. “You have to focus on your process of what you’re doing in that moment. The process will get you the end result most times. That’s just life sometimes. Certain things are going to hit the fan and you can’t control it. You have to just put it behind you.”
To that last point, being down two games to none stinks, but the series is a race to four wins and not two. The Islanders are still feeling good about the way they played in game two and despite giving up that late third period goal, they think they may have their mojo back and they’ll certainly need it to get back in the series.
Of course, shooting the puck more and scoring on the power play would also help them turn this series around.