PITTSBURGH — The positive memories of the Islanders’ four-game playoff sweep of the Penguins flooded back to center Brock Nelson when he took the ice for Tuesday’s morning skate.
“I think it hit me in practice,” Nelson said. “You remember the atmosphere of the playoffs. It was a fun ride. It was intense. Any time you play someone in the playoffs that’s a divisional matchup, it’s going to be tough.”
The Islanders rallied for a 5-4 overtime win at PPG Paints Arena, their first game in the building since completing their first-round sweep with a 3-1 victory on April 16.
The Hurricanes then swept the Islanders in the second round.
“What we did last year was special but this is a different year and we’ve got to keep moving forward and building toward what we want to achieve at the end of this season,” said center Casey Cizikas, who played in his 500th NHL game, all with the Islanders. “You never expect to sweep a team in the NHL playoffs. We just had a certain mindset going into every game that no matter what happens, we’re going to rebound. That’s the way we approached the entire series.”
“It does seem like a long time ago,” left wing Josh Bailey added. “After each year, you kind of turn the page. The previous time we had a playoff series here  we wound up losing. It is what it is. It’s a new year.”
Defenseman Ryan Pulock’s rising slap shot hit the top of Nelson’s helmet, sending a piece flying into the air and sprawling Nelson to the ice at 8:56 of the first period. A shaken Nelson retreated to bench and had to wait for repairs to his helmet before returning to the game about four minutes later.
“I kind of saw it coming at the last minute,” Nelson said. “I felt like I was going to take it in the ear hole. It was higher than that. I was lucky for sure.”
So, Nelson should be good to go for his 500th NHL game on Thursday night.
Coach Barry Trotz kept the Islanders from a deeper deficit in the Penguins’ two-goal first period as he successfully challenged that Bryan Rust was offside on Zach Aston-Reese’s apparent shorthanded goal at 6:39. Trotz credited the team’s video coaches, who immediately signaled the bench to challenge the call.
Defenseman Nick Leddy had three assists and was a plus-5. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk had five of the Islanders’ 20 blocked shots and defenseman Adam Pelech had four . . . Left wing Matt Martin (injured reserve/lower body) participated in the morning skate, his third time skating with his teammates and the second since he was cleared for contact. It’s possible Martin, injured Oct. 25 at Ottawa when his left knee crashed into an open door on the Senators’ bench, will be available when the Penguins visit Barclays Center on Thursday night . . . Forward Ross Johnston and rookie defenseman Noah Dobson were the healthy scratches.