Barry Trotz has been in this spot before, up 3-1 in a playoff series against an Alain Vigneault-coached team in the second round.
The Islanders coach is hoping for a better result this time.
His current team can clinch its first berth in the Eastern Conference final since 1993 with a win in Tuesday night’s Game 5 against the Flyers at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. In 2015, Vigneault’s Rangers rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate Trotz’s Capitals.
“I think when you get to this point, the eight teams that are still left believe they can win the Stanley Cup,” Trotz said after Sunday’s 3-2 win in Game 4. “You don’t know how the journey is going to go. You’ve just got to react to it. You’ve got to forget what happened the night before and you’ve got to look forward and you’ve got to get in the right mindset. The teams that are here are here because they all have a good mindset.”
The Islanders did not practice on Monday.
“We didn’t play our best hockey,” said Brock Nelson, who had two goals in Game 4. “I think it maybe gives the group a little motivation knowing we have to be better coming out. They’re going to come with everything they’ve got now that we’re up 3-1. We just have to still find a way to raise our level.”
Vigneault’s Rangers also rallied from a 3-1 series deficit in the second round in 2014 against the Penguins en route to a five-game loss to the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.
He said the biggest lesson he’ll impart on the Flyers is focusing on just getting one win.
“At the end of the day right now, probably not a lot of people are going to give us a chance,” Vigneault said on Monday. “What we have to do is not focus on the big task, but focus on tomorrow. Let’s find a way to win that game.
“This is a great opportunity for our leadership group to change the narrative, change their legacy here,” Vigneault added.
The Flyers’ Game 4 loss, following the Islanders’ 3-1 win in Saturday’s Game 3, marked the first time they have dropped consecutive games since concluding a 1-4-1 road trip on Jan. 7.
Trotz said Game 4 was actually the Islanders’ “worst game” of this postseason run as the team was bailed out by Thomas Greiss’ 36-save performance. Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves in Game 3 and Trotz has a tough decision to make on which goalie to start.
But the Islanders, after a sluggish second period, responded with another strong finish as they’ve now outscored opponents, 19-5, in the third period.
“I thought everyone showed up in the third period and brought their best,” said Jean-Gabriel Pageau, gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 7:18 of the third period before Nelson scored the winner at 11:12. “We want to have that consistency for the (first) two periods. So, that’s what we’re going to look forward to do in the next game.”
Flyers center Kevin Hayes, who was a Rangers’ rookie for their playoff run in 2015, said this series feels a lot closer than 3-1.
But to avoid elimination, the Flyers want to manage the puck better in Game 5 and finish the chances they get at the Islanders’ net.
“Don’t get me wrong, there’s a reason that [the Islanders] are here, they’ve got great players,” Hayes said. “I feel like a lot of goals that have ended up in the back of our net have been the result of us shooting ourselves in the foot. Once we fix that, the results should start to change.”