There wasn’t much the Islanders could say Tuesday, a day after the 8-0 thrashing they suffered at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday at Amalie Arena that pushed them to the brink of elimination in the NHL semifinals.
Really, the only thing they could say after what was the worst playoff loss in team history, was that they have no doubt they will be better in Game 6 Wednesday at Nassau Coliseum than they were on Monday in Tampa.
"You’ll get our best,’’ coach Barry Trotz said, with the Islanders back on Long Island and licking their wounds. "Whatever we’ve got left, you’re going to get our best tomorrow.’’
"You kind of think about the game last night, and what you could have done better as a group, and as an individual, and you move forward,’’ forward Casey Cizikas said. "You wake up this morning, and today's a new day. That's the beauty of playoffs; it's a seven-game series, it's not just one game. So, you're gonna see a different team tomorrow night, and we're excited to get back out there and prove that we are a better team.’’
Trailing 3-2 in the series, the Islanders will need to win Wednesday to stave off elimination and extend the series to the seven-game limit. They will have an ally in the cause, though: Venerable Nassau Coliseum, potentially hosting its final NHL playoff game, with the team set to move into brand-new UBS Arena next season, will give them comfort. And the nearly 13,000 fans inside the building will serve as a seventh man, at times.
"Especially after a game like [Monday] night, it's nice to be coming home, in front of the fans,’’ Jordan Eberle said. "They've been unbelievable. I mean the end of the season, and then obviously throughout the playoffs, you get a little bit of an extra boost when they're cheering you on. And our record shows for itself how well we've played there. In a must-win game, it's awesome that we get to start off at the Coliseum, and get [the fans’] energy behind you. It gives you a little extra.’’
The Islanders will also have the benefit of having their most dynamic offensive player, Mathew Barzal in the lineup. Barzal, the Isles’ leading scorer in the regular season, had faced possible suspension after he was given a major penalty for cross-checking Tampa Bay defenseman Jan Rutta at the end of the second period Monday. The league announced Tuesday that Barzal was fined the maximum $5,000 for the incident, but not suspended.
Eberle, Barzal’s linemate, described Barzal’s actions Monday as "out of character’’ for the 24-year-old, and after Trotz had expressed disappointment in Barzal after the game, Eberle said he expected Barzal to play well Wednesday.
"I know Barzy, I know the character that he has, and you know I think, like him, and the rest of the group, we'll definitely respond tomorrow,’’ he said.
As for the details of what the Islanders will need to do better to give themselves a chance, Trotz said many of the things they did so poorly Monday are fixable for Wednesday.
"Obviously, Tampa's going to feel really good about their game, and we don't feel really good about our game,’’ Trotz said. "But the stuff that we did last night was very, very correctable. I mean, it was turnovers. And hopefully it's only a 24-hour thing, just like a 24-hour flu. We can get over it, move on.
"When you ask me, ‘How are you gonna have success against Tampa Bay?’ I say 'you gotta stay outta the penalty box; you got to control their big line (of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov), and you can't take penalties,'’’ he said. "And really, you think about that, we didn't do any of that [Monday] night.’’