TAMPA, Fla. — The Islanders are just one of four teams in NHL history to face a 2-1 series deficit in at least three rounds of one playoff run. They have a chance to become the first NHL team to overcome that disadvantage to win three series if they can again rally against the Lightning in the NHL semifinals.
Of course, that’s not the Islanders' focus heading into Monday night’s pivotal Game 5 at Amalie Arena.
"The further you go in a series, the harder it gets," Anthony Beauvillier said on Sunday. "Game 5 is going to be harder than it was the last game. We’re going to have to be at our best and they’re going to be at their best. We’re definitely going to be ready for that."
The Islanders did not practice on Sunday after evening this series with a 3-2 win in Saturday night’s Game 4 at Nassau Coliseum. Beauvillier snapped a five-game pointless streak with an assist as the Islanders scored three times in the second period. But they needed defenseman Ryan Pulock’s remarkable goal-line stop on Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh’s buzzer-beating spin-o-rama attempt that drew goalie Semyon Varlamov out of position to avoid going to overtime.
The Islanders won Game 1, 2-1, at Amalie Arena. The expectation is the remaining best-of-three portion of this series will be a defensive battle of wills against the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning, who eliminated the Islanders in six games in last season’s Eastern Conference finals.
The Islanders rallied to eliminate both the Penguins in the first round and then the Bruins in six games. They won Game 5 of the first round, 3-2, in double overtime in Pittsburgh and took Game 5 of the second round, 5-4, in Boston even though the Bruins outplayed them in that match.
"I think we have a confident group," defenseman Scott Mayfield said. "I think we’ve been confident the whole year and then going into the playoffs, we’re confident. I don’t know if that’s changed too much. Looking back at the Game 5s, we might have stolen a couple of them. We know what we have to do. We know how we have to play on the road. We know they’re going to have a big push. It’s a three-game series now and two of the games are on the road."
Not surprisingly, the Lightning, too, are fairly confident of their chances in this series.
They have won six straight series since being swept in the first round by the Blue Jackets in 2019.
However, the Islanders’ Game 4 win snapped the Lightning’s NHL-record streak of taking a 3-1 lead in six straight series.
"It wasn’t them, it was us — it’s always us," Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said after Game 4. "When we’re on the top of our game, playing our structure and guys are battling, I don’t think there’s anyone that can play with us."
This deep into this series, there are few surprises left between the teams.
But Islanders coach Barry Trotz did throw a wrinkle at the Lightning by flip-flopping left wings Leo Komarov and Kyle Palmieri throughout Game 4, allowing Palmieri to play on Mathew Barzal’s top line with Jordan Eberle while Komarov took shifts skating with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Travis Zajac.
Trotz said he expects that to continue that in Game 5, even though he does have the last change on the road during stoppages.
"That’s something that I’ve had in my pocket for a couple of games and I just pulled it out [Saturday]," Trotz said. "I’ll probably continue to do that for a while."