Islanders hope they're getting under Penguins' skin
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If Tuesday night's denouement to the Islanders' 6-4 Game 4 victory -- a postgame scrum initiated by the Penguins -- carried any special significance beyond Pittsburgh's kick-the-dog mood, the Islanders couldn't see it.
"To me, it's two teams battling," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Wednesday. "You're going to see that all the time. Tempers flare."
Has the Islanders' resilience, and surprising two-games-apiece first-round playoff push put fear in the hearts of the Eastern Conference's top-seeded team?
"They've got a lot of veterans over there," Islanders forward Keith Aucoin said. "I'm sure they have no fear. They've got a lot of guys with playoff experience. I'm sure they've been in this position before. So we're not worried about them. We're worried about ourselves, and that's been our motto the last couple of months."
It is the Islanders, after all, who lost a significant presence for tonight's Game 5 in Pittsburgh: Defenseman Andrew MacDonald, whose 23:31 per game during the regular season was a team high, left Tuesday's game with a fractured hand, according to a source.
"He's been great all year, one of our leaders," fellow defenseman Matt Carkner said of MacDonald. "We're going to try to pull up our socks and work hard and get some wins for him."
Still, of the two teams, the one that left Nassau Coliseum annoyed, irritated, disappointed and exasperated was Pittsburgh, which had won 12 more games than the Islanders during the lockout-shortened 48-game season. Exasperated enough that they will replace struggling goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with Tomas Vokoun in Game 5.
"We're hoping they're a little rattled, a little worried about us," Carkner said, "because we think we have every opportunity to win this series. The more frustrated they get, the better it is for us. I'm sure they'd love to be up 3-1 right now, but that's hockey."
Just as it's hockey for the underdogs to hope Pittsburgh's frustration is working in the Islanders' favor.
"That means we're doing something right if we're frustrating them," defenseman Brian Strait said. "I think we've been pretty physical with their top guys. We're just happy the series is tied."
Capuano said he still is "running through his mind" how to fill the MacDonald void, "but I would say we're leaning more toward a veteran guy at this point."
That could mean significantly more ice time for 36-year-old Radek Martinek, who played in only 13 games during the season.
The team's mantra continues to be "no panic in our game," Capuano said, "understanding how there's going to be surges and momentum that change against a real good hockey club. But I like the character and leadership of our team."
The loss of MacDonald "is an unfortunate situation because Andrew was an integral part of our team, as hard as he played against other teams' top lines," Capuano said. "But, if we recover well, it gets other guys an opportunity. We have some guys who can fit in for us."
He did not include himself, based on his very brief NHL career as a defenseman more than a decade ago. "I can play," Capuano kidded, "but I don't know if I can play with the pace this is going."