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Islanders need success on power play to make a run in Stanley Cup playoffs

Nick Leddy #2 of the Islanders is congratulated

Nick Leddy #2 of the Islanders is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals during the second period in Game 2 at Scotiabank Arena on Aug. 14, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. Credit: Getty Images/Elsa

Power-play production will eventually be a must if the Islanders are to sustain a run in the NHL playoffs.

That the Islanders were able to push the Capitals to the brink in their best-of-seven first-round series without any consistency on the man advantage does not change that hockey truth.

The Islanders were 1-for-19 (5.2%) in the first four games against the Capitals and were 5-for-35 (14.3%) overall in the postseason, including a four-game win over the Panthers in the best-of-five qualifier, entering Thursday night’s Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

That includes going 0-for-5, albeit with 12 power-play shots, as the Capitals staved off elimination by rallying from an early two-goal deficit for a 3-2 win in Tuesday night’s Game 4.

It’s led Butch Goring, the Islanders’ analyst for MSG Networks, to start each broadcast with increasingly desperate pleas for a power-play goal.

“It frustrates me a little bit but it’s more than that; I want the guys to win and I know how important the power play can be for them to win a game or win a series,” Goring, who won four Stanley Cups with the Islanders from 1980-83 and later served as their coach, told Newsday’s Neil Best. "I’m not criticizing the power play in any way, shape or form. I know how difficult it can be. But, as an analyst, I’m trying to be honest and really make the point that it’s an important part of the game and it can be a game-changer. It can be a momentum-changer.”

The Islanders’ power play looked more active in Game 4 after going 0-for-5 with just six shots in Sunday’s 2-1 win in Game 3.

“We created a lot of chances last game, a lot of pucks to the net,” left wing Anthony Beauvillier said. “We were able to create some momentum out of it. It’s going to go in at some point.”

The Islanders ranked 24th in the 31-team NHL during the regular season on the power play at 17.3% (29-for-168).

The Capitals’ aggressive penalty kill has something to do with the Islanders’ power-play struggles through the first four games. They had allowed just one power-play goal in 27 chances through their first seven postseason games, including the three-game Eastern Conference round robin among the top four seeds.

In the regular season, the Capitals’ penalty kill ranked sixth at 82.6 (199-for-241). It concentrates on making zone entries difficult, extending out to pressure players on the points and blocking shots before they reach the crease.

“They’ve been aggressive all year,” said Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup in 2018. “They have an element of aggressiveness.  They’re doing a really good job. We keep making adjustments. They keep making adjustments. You just hope you find the back of the net and break that bubble.”

If there is a concern for the Capitals entering Game 5, it was putting the Islanders on the power play so frequently. The Islanders were also 0-for-4 in a 4-2 win in Game 1 and 1-for-5 in a 5-2 win in Game 2 on a goal from defenseman Nick Leddy.

“The more looks we give them, the more chances we give them to switch things up and find ways to get pucks to the net and scoring chances,” Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen said.

The most important adjustment for the Islanders is to continue to increase the number of pucks getting to the crease.

“When the power play is not going well, simplify it,” Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle said. “Get the  pucks to the net and get second chances at the net.”

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