Islanders head coach Barry Trotz looks at the score board...

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz looks at the score board after the Carolina Hurricanes scored two empty net goals during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Apr. 24, 2022. Credit: AP/Noah K. Murray

WASHINGTON — Barry Trotz coached the Capitals to the playoffs in all four of his seasons with that team, culminating with the Stanley Cup in 2018, and the Islanders qualified in his first three seasons behind their bench.

So this will mark Trotz’s first playoff miss since 2014, his last season with the Predators. And he guided that expansion franchise to the postseason seven times between 2004 and 2014.

“It’s really strange,” Trotz said before the Islanders won their final road game, 4-1, to open a home-and-home series with the Capitals on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena. “We’ve been in the second round or deeper seven years and then the short offseasons. But it’s all worth it. [Not being in the playoffs] it is feeling really strange, there’s no question.”

The Islanders (36-34-10), who went 2-for-2 on the power play and got a shorthanded goal to snap an 0-4-1 skid, reached the NHL semifinals in each of the past two seasons. Ilya Sorokin made 32 saves for the Islanders while counterpart Ilya Samsonov stopped 22 shots for the playoff-bound Capitals (44-24-12), who were missing Alex Ovechkin (upper body).

Defenseman Noah Dobson’s power-play goal gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 2:56 of the third period. Casey Cizikas, laying on the ice after stealing the puck on the forecheck, shoveled in a shorthanded goal to make it 3-1 at 8:42 and Anders Lee pushed it to 4-1 at 15:17.

Trotz, whose mother passed away on Jan. 1, said he would use the offseason to handle some family matters.

“I’m going to take a chance to try recharge,” Trotz said. “I’ll use it as a mental break from the game. We’ve been grinding hard for seven-plus years. I’ll just have to make the best of a situation that I’m not really used to and come back with hopefully renewed energy and get us back to where we feel we can be.”

This might have been Trotz’s hardest season in just trying to navigate the twists.

There was a 13-game road trip to open the season while construction at UBS Arena was completed. Trotz and nearly the whole team wound up in COVID-19 protocol at different times starting in mid-November. Multiple games were postponed and rescheduled. That resulted in a condensed schedule from mid-February on that has severely limited the team’s practice time.

“It wasn’t an easy year for everybody,” Trotz said. “There was no script for it. It was seat-of-your-pants almost on a nightly basis. And then we didn’t have the season we envisioned, or anybody envisioned.

“It just didn’t go the way you anticipated. You wipe yourself off and you learn a little bit from it. You try to get better from it. It’s in the past. You can’t fix the past but you can maybe fix the future decisions.”

For instance, Trotz said, in retrospect, he probably would change how he handled the Islanders’ long stretches without games through December and January.

“We’ve had about five little mini-training camps,” Trotz said. “Some of those we probably didn’t need because there was still that mental grind of preparing. We had like a 10-day training camp. Looking back, maybe we should have taken five days off. Sometimes you try to push too hard and you get less done. But we couldn’t plan it. It was hard to plan this year.”

Conor Sheary’s tip gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead at 10:24 of the first period, less than two minutes after Kyle Palmieri’s apparent 200th career goal was overturned as the Capitals successfully challenged for goalie interference against Zach Parise. Defenseman Ryan Pulock tied it on the power play at 16:18 of the first period.

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