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Islanders still need to keep up their desperation level vs. Capitals

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) dives

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) dives for the loose puck between New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (6) and center Brock Nelson (29) during the third period of an NHL Eastern Conference Stanley Cup hockey playoff game in Toronto, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) Credit: AP/Nathan Denette

Barry Trotz knows all too well how capable these Capitals are of overcoming the 2-0 series deficit they currently face against his Islanders in the first round.

He was their coach in 2018 when they lost the first two games to the Blue Jackets in the first round. The Capitals rebounded to win four straight, then went on to win the franchise’s lone Stanley Cup.

“Our players are well aware of that journey,” Trotz said on Saturday, an off-day for the Islanders after their impressive, 5-2 win in Friday night’s Game 2. “I’ve talked to many of them about it. You have to stay in the fight. We’ll brush on it. We’re going to focus on us, what we came here to do.”

“We’re going to forget this game and move on,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had two goals in Game 2, his first two points in five postseason games. “It’s not over, yet.”

Game 3 is Sunday at noon at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The Islanders will be the designated home team for the next two games.

“Every game in a series, the intensity just gets that much more ramped up, it becomes that much tighter of a game,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “We’ve put a couple of pretty good games together but we can’t sit back. That’s an experienced group over there that’s been through a lot and overcome a lot, obviously, to win it a couple of years ago.”

The Islanders won Wednesday’s Game 1, 4-2, and there have been a couple of common themes through the first two games of the best-of-seven series.

The Capitals have been the better team at the start of the first period, with Ovechkin scoring just 56 seconds into Game 2. The Islanders have been the much better team in the third periods, settling into their defensively-sound, forecheck-centric game. They scored four unanswered goals in Game 1, including three in the third period and scored the only two goals in the third period of Game 2.

The Islanders have been the stronger team physically, particularly as the games have worn on and they have ground down the Capitals. And they won the special teams battle in Game 2, going 1-for-5 on the power play and killing off both the Capitals’ power plays in the third period.

“It’s really realizing what we need to do to be successful,” defenseman Nick Leddy said. “We haven’t had the best of starts. Each team is going to have their moments of pressure. It’s weathering that and starting to take the game over.”

The Capitals, with Ovechkin and defenseman John Carlson, a Norris Trophy candidate, certainly have the talent to stage a comeback.

“We have to figure out a way to outwork this team and match their work ethic,” said Capitals coach Todd Reirden, Trotz’s associate coach in 2018. “We do at some points, like we do to start a game. But we don’t do it for extended periods of time. We’re going to have to if we want to get back in this series.”

NHL teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven have gone on to win 86.4% (324-of-375) of those series.

But the Islanders know they can’t rely on historical statistics to help them advance to the second round.

“I think every game is desperation, especially when it comes to this time,” Leddy said. “We know, as a team, we have to keep raising our level. They have a very veteran group. I’ve been on the other side of this, being down 2-0. You want to get momentum.”

New York Sports