It’s facetious to suggest the Islanders have the Bruins right where they want them after rallying from a 2-1 series deficit in the first round against the Penguins. But it is correct to say trailing this second-round series by that margin does not daunt them one bit.
"In my opinion, we’re a very resilient team," defenseman Nick Leddy said on Friday as the Islanders conducted an optional practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. "Nobody likes losing but your next game is a huge game and [coach Barry] Trotz has always talked about that. So, we try to take a little extra pride and focus on that. Tomorrow’s game is huge."
Game 4 is Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum after the Bruins won Game 3, 2-1, in overtime on Thursday night before an electric crowd of 12,000.
The Islanders need a win to guarantee at least one more playoff game at the venerable barn, which will be succeeded as their home rink next season by UBS Arena at Belmont Park.
Against the Penguins, the Islanders won three straight to win in six games.
"It’s a new challenge," Jordan Eberle said. "They’re a different team. They play a different style. I know we responded last series. We’ve always been a group that has responded and our mindset has shifted to the next game. That’s all you can do. It’s short memories in the playoffs. That’s our mindset right now is we have a huge game tomorrow and we need to be ready."
The Islanders also faced a 2-1 series deficit — after losing the first two games — to the Lightning in last season’s Eastern Conference finals before bowing in six games to the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
Trotz’s Capitals faced a 2-1 deficit in the first round against the Blue Jackets after losing the first two games en route to that franchise’s lone Cup in 2018.
"Just sticking with it," Trotz said Friday when asked the key to rallying in the playoffs. "We knew it was going to be a hard out. You have to just keep continually buying into what you’re doing. Staying to the process and letting your game slowly, hopefully, take over.
"We’ve been in this situation before. It’s not the end of the world. It’s one game. We focus on tomorrow. If we get the job done tomorrow, then it’s a best-of-three and that’s what it was against Pittsburgh."
To even the series, the Islanders must continue to do some things they did in Game 3. And they must improve in other areas.
The Islanders were 0-for-3 on the power play in Game 3 with five shots, including a chance to end it in regulation after Sean Kuraly was called for cross checking at 17:45 of the third period. The Islanders also must get more shots on goalie Tuukka Rask and more traffic to the Bruins’ crease after he had 29 saves in Game 3 and was particularly good in stopping five overtime shots.
But top-line center Mathew Barzal is trending upward. He had four shots and six chances and finally scored his first goal of the playoffs in Game 3. He also had four shots, six chances and an assist in the Islanders’ 4-3 overtime win in Monday’s Game 2 in Boston.
"We have to be a threat on ice and create some momentum for us," Eberle said of the top line, which also includes Leo Komarov. "Barzy is a catalyst of that. He has the puck quite a bit. When he’s skating and moving the puck and attacking and being dangerous, we’re a dangerous squad."