In the history of the National Hockey League, there have been 29 teams that have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series including four teams that came back to win after being down 3-0. The Islanders have a chance to join that list as they get ready to face the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight in game five of the Eastern Conference Final in Edmonton (8pm NBCSN).
The Islanders have no chance to get to a game six or even a game seven if they don’t get tonight’s game and that is the focus right now. Head Coach Barry Trotz said the message to his team is a simple one.
“Enjoy the challenges in front of us,” said Trotz. “This bubble is getting pretty scarce. There are three teams left. There are 28 teams that wish they had this opportunity. Let’s leave it on the line and have no regrets at the end.”
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…Islanders 5 Lightning 3 (Tampa Bay leads 2-1)
Game 4: Sunday September 13th…Lightning 4 Islanders 1 (Tampa Bay leads 3-1)
Game 5: Tuesday September 15th…Islanders vs Lightning…8pm NBCSN
Game 6: Thursday September 17th…Lightning vs Islanders…8pm NBCSN (If Necessary)
Game 7: Saturday September 19th…Islanders vs Lightning…730pm NBC (If Necessary)
The Islanders appear twice on that list of the greatest comebacks in NHL playoff history. In 1975, they trailed the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 in the quarterfinals before coming back to win. And then in 1987, they were 3-1 down to the Washington Capitals before storming back to win including a game seven overtime victory that is known as “The Easter Epic”.
This year’s Islanders team has two players that have also experienced what it’s like to be down three games to one and then come back to win.
Defenseman Nick Leddy was on the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks when they came back from 3-1 down to beat the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinal.
As the Islanders learned against the Flyers, the closeout game is not an easy task for the team up 3-1.
“A lot of the pressure is on them,” said Leddy. “It’s the hardest game to win in my opinion. We just have to go out and play. We know what we have to do as a team and it’s just focusing shift by shift, period by period and hopefully we get the result tonight.”
Forward Derick Brassard played for the 2015 New York Rangers that were down 3-1 to the Washington Capitals in the second round of the playoffs only to come back and win in seven.
He said there is a good vibe around the Islanders heading into game five.
“The energy is high,” said Brassard. “We finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. There are only three teams left. We’re focusing on tonight. We just need one game. We have to do everything in our power to bring that to game seven and anything can happen after that.”
In the last round, the Islanders had a 3-1 lead against the Flyers but lost game five in overtime and then game six in double-overtime. Trotz told the players before game seven to have fun and the Islanders won punching their ticket to the NHL’s final four.
The message is basically the same tonight.
“I said to the guys enjoy the challenge,” said Trotz. “They’re not scared of the challenge. This team has got too much character and invested too much over this whole playoff to not leave it out there. That’s not even a concern for me.”
Not only will the Islanders be trying to become the 30th team to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win an NHL playoff series, but they’re also chasing another type of history. Only the 2000 New Jersey Devils came back from a 3-1 deficit to win a conference Final.
The General Manager of that team was current Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello.