Matt Martin leaves the ice during the third period of Game...

Matt Martin leaves the ice during the third period of Game Two of the Islanders' first-round playoff series against the Hurricanes at PNC Arena on April 22, 2024 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Islanders are not as good at hockey as the Carolina Hurricanes are, and that likely will result in the Islanders not surviving the first round of the playoffs.

That’s the harsh reality of them being down 2-0 in the series and needing to win four out of five games against the betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

But before dismissing the Islanders altogether, be careful about overestimating one factor in this series.

For most of us, an emotional gut punch the likes of the one the Islanders suffered in Raleigh on Monday night would be difficult to overcome.

They blew a 3-0 lead, allowed three goals in the final 2 ½ minutes and lost, 5-3.

That night and likely into Tuesday, the Islanders were devastated. But by the time they hit the practice ice on Wednesday, Game 2 was old news.

This is not just rationalizing on the players’ part. OK, maybe some of it is. But professional athletes are wired differently than most humans. If they were not, they would not be professional athletes.

NewsdayTV's Jamie Stuart and Newsday Islanders beat writer Andrew Gross spoke about some of head coach Patrick Roy's decisions leading up to Game 3 vs. the Hurricanes on Thursday night. Credit: Newsday Staff; Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke; AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker

There are countless examples of jocks moving on from heartbreak more quickly than their fans do.

It is part of the job, whether you are a relief pitcher, a cornerback or a hockey player having to answer my annoying questions in East Meadow.

A trip around the dressing room to the lockers of Casey Cizikas, Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee found players willing to admit the obvious about Monday, and sincerely forgetting all about it.

“You definitely go over scenarios in your head that night after the game and what you could have done differently,” Cizikas said.

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“Once your head hits that pillow and you wake up the next day, you’re focused on the next game. You can’t dwell on the past. That’s something in this room that we’ve done well.

“We’ve played in a lot of big games in this room. We’ve been together for a long time and we know exactly how you have to react in the playoffs . . . Going into [Game 3 on Thursday], our heads are clear and we’re ready to get at it again.”

Barzal said, “Obviously, we were [annoyed]. There’s no hiding that. I wasn’t happy after the game. There weren’t a ton of smiles after, I’ll tell you that.

“But in saying that, this is the playoffs and it’s all about a positive mindset at this point every day. We’re in good spirits, regardless of the score. We’re taking this day by day and we’re enjoying the moment.

“We’ve got a chance now at an epic comeback . . . It’s going to be a war right to the end.”

Captain Anders Lee memorably summed up the mood a few minutes after the game on Monday, saying, “This one [expletive] hurts.”

By Wednesday, he was smiling and ready for another crack at it.

“If we were dwelling on things all year, then we wouldn’t be in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s just part of it . . . You’re going to fail. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s how you respond and how you get back at it.

“Part of that is what goes on upstairs between the ears. No doubt everyone was [annoyed] about the last game, but there’s a turning point there where you’ve got to turn the page.”

Lee said such page-turning is a practiced habit for athletes, and a necessary one.

“We have to learn from it and move on,” he said. “I’m sure [fans] are probably sick of us saying that all the time, but that’s part of the process of playing a game every other night in a series that requires four wins.”

The most telling comment regarding the emotional fallout of Monday’s loss came from coach Patrick Roy, a four-time Stanley Cup winner as a player.

“A lot of you [reporters] see the last game as a heartbreaking loss,” he said, “but for me the heartbreaking loss was Game 1, because that’s a game we outplayed them . . . Game 2, they deserved it. They played better than us.”

Again, some of this stuff is rationalizing, but most of it is real. If these guys thought the way we think, they would be sitting in the stands or press box with us.


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