SUNRISE, Fla.—As soon as Game 4 was over, and as much as they wanted to quickly put it behind them, the Islanders realized that for the rest of this series, they will have to rely on their resilience. They see that as one of their strengths.
Numbers agree with them. The Islanders led the National Hockey League in the regular season with 20 points (on a 7-22-6 record) when they trailed after two periods. Not that they were proud about falling behind in 35 games, but their .200 winning percentage in that situation was sixth best in the league.
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The Islanders didn’t trail in Game 5, but they bounced back from their Game 4 loss with a thrilling 2-1 double-overtime victory over the Panthers early this morning that gave them a 3-2 lead in the first-round series.
“We believe in each other in here, and I think a big key why is that we’re resilient,” Casey Cizikas said in the Islanders’ locker room after the morning skate. “We don’t give up. We don’t give in. It doesn’t matter, the score of the game. We’re going to keep being that way.
“We want to get better every single game, every single practice,” said Cizikas, who centers the fourth line, which had such a rough time in the 2-1 loss at Barclays Center on Wednesday night that Jack Capuano temporarily split it up.
Matt Martin, Cizikas’ left wing, said of the Islanders’ bounce-back reputation: “I think you have to be [that way] in this sport. There are going to be ups and downs. Obviously, [Wednesday’s] game was a pretty big downer and it wasn’t good enough from all of us. We expect more.”
Ken Morrow, the team’s director of scouting and a member of the resilient four-time Stanley Cup championship Islanders, was impressed by how the Islanders beat the Panthers in Game 1 after trailing three times and in Game 3 after falling behind by two goals.
“This team seems to be able to come back. They showed it in the regular season and they’re showing it in the playoffs,” he said. “I think you just kind of feed off things that have happened. It has to happen once for you and then you can feed off that energy. It’s funny that sometimes I think you play a little looser when you’re down.”
Having withstood various obstacles as part of the 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. Olympic team — including a deficit in the gold- medal game — just before joining the Islanders, he said it would be fascinating to study why some teams recover after a stumble. He added, “It’s a good quality to have.”