The Islanders are not exactly a group laden with playoff experience. But they have been here before, tied 1-1 after splitting the first two games on the road, with a chance to take control of a series again at home.
They had some good moments in Saturday afternoon’s 4-1 loss to the Lightning in Tampa, just as they had some good moments in Wednesday night’s series-opening 5-3 win. Tampa Bay has speed and the Islanders have a little more sandpaper to their game, and both teams displayed their best traits in the first two games.
So with Game 3 looming at Barclays Center on Tuesday night, there isn’t much mystery left.
“When we’re doing things the proper way, we have a chance to have success,” Jack Capuano said on a conference call Sunday. “There are periods in that [Game 2], for whatever reason, we were reluctant to get net presence, get pucks to the net. They watched plenty of tape, they know how hard Tampa’s going to come, and we just have to execute.”
The Islanders came home from the other side of Florida tied 1-1 with the Panthers in the opening round, having won a wild Game 1 and lost a lower-scoring Game 2. This past week in Tampa, the Isles were opportunistic in chasing Ben Bishop midway through Game 1, then did not do enough to make Bishop uncomfortable in Game 2 with only 20 shots on goal — eight in the final 40 minutes.
The Islanders had only 39 shot attempts in Game 2 after 44 in Game 1. Neither of those numbers is high enough for Capuano’s liking, particularly given that the Islanders had nine power plays in the first two games.
“We prepared well for their pressure [on the power play],” Capuano said. “Sometimes it’s the mindset. I don’t know why we’re reluctant [to shoot]. The other unit got out there, got a puck to the net and [Nikolay] Kulemin tipped it in. You’ve just got to simplify it. I’ve got a lot of faith in our guys moving forward.”
The problem of not shooting enough could be helped by the return of Ryan Pulock, who will practice on Monday and could be ready for a return in Game 3 after missing the last four games. Pulock scored a key power-play goal in Game 3 against the Panthers and is growing less reticent with each game to unleash his big slap shot.
“We have some great shooters, but we have to find a way to get second and third opportunities, especially when a goalie’s challenging the way he was today,” John Tavares said after Game 2.
The path is evident for the Islanders to have some success in this series. The Lightning has had the better of the play, as the Panthers did for much of the previous series, but the Islanders know what needs to be done.
“We’ve got some speed, too, and you’ve just got to play to your strengths,” Thomas Hickey said. “Maybe we’re playing a little bit slower, they’re picking up some speed with the puck. I thought our neutral zone was a little better than it was last game, to be honest. We just need to focus on the next game.”
Notes & quotes: Josh Bailey (upper body) skated Sunday with a group of Bridgeport call-ups and could be ready to practice on Monday. That group of recent AHLers brought up when the Sound Tigers’ season ended included 2014 first-round pick Michael Dal Colle, but Capuano said it is unlikely that the 19-year-old will see anything more than practice time.
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