Anders Lee #27 and Bo Horvat #14 of the New...

Anders Lee #27 and Bo Horvat #14 of the New York Islanders react after losing against the Carolina Hurricanes in game three of the First Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at UBS Arena on Thursday, April 25, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Certainly the Islanders understand the daunting task ahead.

Down three games to none in their first-round series against the Hurricanes, they face elimination in Saturday afternoon’s Game 4 at UBS Arena. Carolina has captured 11 of 13 postseason games between the teams since 2019, including a six-game win last season in the first round.

Only four NHL teams have rallied to win four straight while facing elimination in a best-of-seven series, the last being the eventual Stanley Cup champion Kings against the Sharks in the first round in 2014. The Islanders did it against the Penguins in 1975 in the quarterfinals — the organization’s first trip to the playoffs — and nearly did it again in the next round against the Flyers before losing Game 7.

So it’s a daunting task indeed.

“I mean, it’s always in the back of your mind,” Bo Horvat said during a Zoom teleconference on Friday when asked about the enormity of the challenge. “There’s been teams that have overcome this in the past. We’re such a resilient group here that everybody still believes we can do this. And, I mean, we should. We’ve proven it all year that every time we’ve been counted out or down, we just found a way to overcome that and prove people wrong and prove ourselves right.

“We have a great opportunity again to do that and we’ve just got to start by getting this win and going from there.”

Despite playing their best game of the series, the Islanders dropped Thursday night’s Game 3 at UBS Arena, 3-2, when Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen stopped all 11 of their third-period shots. Ilya Sorokin, making his first start of this postseason, was pulled in the second period after allowing three goals on 14 shots, and Islanders coach Patrick Roy confirmed on Friday that he will go back to Semyon Varlamov for Game 4. He stopped all eight shots he faced on Thursday in relief.

The Islanders also were the better team for two periods of their 3-1 loss in Game 1 in Raleigh, North Carolina, then had a three-goal lead in Game 2 before being limited to three shots in the final 36 minutes of a 5-3 loss.

It’s been an emotional roller coaster, and that’s something the Islanders probably will try to simultaneously embrace and ignore in Game 4.

“I would say both, maybe,” Anders Lee said. “Use that emotion for motivation and perseverance through the first three games, and at the same time, what’s done is done. We have an opportunity tomorrow to come back, in our building, to have a good game, to win a game and take it from there. There’s no doubt we have to rise to the occasion and do whatever it takes to win a hockey game.”

Lee said it does not feel like an enormous task.

“To be honest, I’m not feeling that,” he said. “It’s going to be a gauntlet regardless. Really, we’ve just got to get the first one.”

Roy said he had not settled on his line combinations for Game 4 after using rookie Kyle MacLean, the fourth-line center, on some double shifts with Horvat and Mathew Barzal.

If the Islanders can continue their Game 3 trend of smoothly transitioning the puck out of their defensive zone and up the ice and skating the puck over the Hurricanes’ blue line without having to dump-and-chase with frequency, Roy said being able to score that “big goal” that eluded them in the third period of Game 3 will be the difference.

“It’s just a matter of bearing down on our opportunities,” Horvat said. “Freddy made some pretty crazy saves last game that could have gone a different way for us. We’ve got to keep peppering him with shots and burying opportunities when we get them.”

Horvat praised the 6-4, 238-pound Andersen, who has won all three games in the series with a 2.01 goals-against average and .922 save percentage, for his size and positional soundness.

“We’ve got to get in his eyes a little bit so he can’t see the puck,” Horvat said. “When we have those opportunities, we have to make him move laterally and try to open the net for us.”

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