Garnet Hathaway of the Capitals drops the gloves against Mathew Barzal of...

Garnet Hathaway of the Capitals drops the gloves against Mathew Barzal of the Islanders during the first period in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday in Toronto. Credit: Getty Images/Elsa

Butch Goring knows how good the Capitals are and never expected them to go quietly in their first-round playoff series against the Islanders.

Still, given what he has seen from coach Barry Trotz over the past two seasons, Goring is optimistic about Game 5 on Thursday after the Capitals avoided a sweep with a 3-2 victory on Tuesday.

“He does an amazing job getting his team ready to play after a loss,” the MSG+ analyst said. “He seems to be able to cure all the evils. So I feel pretty good about their chances.”

Goring earned his right to that opinion. He happens to be an expert on the subject of Islanders teams that failed to close out a sweep in a best-of-seven series, then bounced back in Game 5.

The last time it happened to the Islanders was in the 1981 Stanley Cup Final, and Goring was in the middle of it.

In Game 3, he had a hat trick in a 7-5 victory over the North Stars. Then Minnesota stayed alive by winning Game 4, 4-2, a game in which Islanders star Bryan Trottier suffered a separated shoulder.

No problem. They returned to Nassau Coliseum, Goring scored twice in the first 10 minutes, and they repeated as Cup champion, winning, 5-1. In his first full season with the team, Goring won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

“If he was the spark that ignited the Islanders in their pursuit of a first Stanley Cup, he was the flame this year,” Newsday’s Joe Gergen wrote, referring to Goring’s midseason arrival the year before.

Goring’s father, Bob, watched from the stands and later told Gergen, “I’ve had a lot of thrills in my life, but this has to be tops.”

It was pretty good for his son, too. “I was sky high,” Goring said on Wednesday. “I had scored three goals two games earlier. So I was feeling pretty good about the whole deal.”

It helped that with Trottier limited, Goring played mostly with Mike Bossy and Clark Gillies.

“That was fun, the opportunity to play with those two guys, especially with Bossy,” Goring said. “Bryan Trottier kind of hogged him, so I didn’t get a chance to play with him very often.”

Naturally, comparing the 1981 Islanders to the 2020 team is unfair to the current players. The ’81 team was defending champion and on its way to a 15-3 record in the playoffs, including a semifinal sweep of the Rangers.

So those Islanders were able to brush off losing Game 4 easily.

“Obviously, we kind of let it slip away, we got away from our game a little game a little,” Goring said. “But we weren’t worried about Game 5.”

Unlike its forebears, the 2020 team will not be returning home to the embrace of its fans. There are no home fans or home rinks in this tournament.

But after a spirited start and a desultory finish in Game 4, Goring sees on the Islanders the leadership to get past what he viewed as a “distracted” performance on Tuesday.

The Islanders took an early 2-0 lead then lost their way, taking bad penalties and allowing the Capitals to assert themselves physically.

“They were completely dominating,” Goring said. “In retrospect, I think it hurt them. They started to think, ‘This game’s going to be easy; we’re going to win 5-0 or 6-0.’ . . . I think what it did is it woke Washington up.”

The Capitals have a Cup pedigree of their own, having won it in 2018 under Trotz. That kind of thing is useful at a time like this, as the 1981 Islanders showed.

“We were ready to win a second Cup,” Goring said. “We were a very motivated group and obviously wanted to prove that the first one wasn’t a fluke.”

In the immediate aftermath of that Cup-clincher in 1981, he said, “I hope we can win it again next year. I don’t know how it will feel a third time.”

It felt pretty good. So did the fourth.


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