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Islanders focused on Tuesday's game vs. Rangers, not three games with first-place Capitals

The Islanders' Ryan Pulock, left, checks the Rangers'

The Islanders' Ryan Pulock, left, checks the Rangers' Alexis Lafreniere during the second period of an NHL game on Jan. 16, 2021, at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP/Bruce Bennett

There is no big-picture thinking for the Islanders, not even with three chances against the East Division-leading Capitals in their next six games.

There is only the Rangers — whom they also will play three times in their next six games — on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.

"We’ll take it one game at a time," said defenseman Nick Leddy, who scored the lone goal in Sunday’s 1-0 overtime win over the Flyers to conclude a 1-2 road trip. "We’ll worry about the Rangers, enjoy the win and get back to it on Tuesday."

The Islanders were off on Monday and will enter Tuesday two points behind the Capitals, who have played one more game. The Islanders are one point ahead of the third-place Penguins and four ahead of the Bruins, who have played two fewer games. The Rangers, who swept a four-game series from the Devils, are four points out of a playoff spot.

The Islanders have won three of the first five from their New York rivals, including a 3-2 overtime win on April 11 at the Coliseum.

But their struggle to produce goals continued Sunday. The Islanders have scored 11 goals in their last eight games (1.4 goals per game), though they’ve managed to win five of them.

"I think if you look at the game [on Sunday] and the chances we had, we had quite a few two-on-ones," Leddy said. "We had chances to score. We just weren’t fortunate enough to do it."

But the Islanders also must be concerned about how they start games.

They were outshot 23-7 in the opening period of Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Bruins, and coach Barry Trotz said they weren’t "committed to the battle" in Sunday’s first period.

"We’ve just got to bear down at times," defenseman Ryan Pulock said. "I think we’ve been a little bit soft on our sticks in the battles a little bit. We’ve got to be prepared to take that battle on right from the start. That’s something we’re going to look at here and make sure we’re better at home.

"Understanding where we have to be better," Pulock added. "If we aren’t our best, finding a way and sticking with it, and I think that’s the important part."

The Rangers are a strong- skating team that will look to exploit mistakes through their transition game. The Flyers have a similar mindset, and the Islanders engaged in an up-and-down game with multiple odd-man rushes on Sunday rather than playing a more disciplined defensive game.

"Their transition game is really good," Trotz said of the Flyers. "If you don’t track back with all five guys, they jump up. We’re going to see that with the Rangers. We’re going to see that with the Capitals coming up. We’ve just got to do a better job."

First things first, and that would be the Rangers on Tuesday.

Notes & quotes: The Islanders are playing without forwards Josh Bailey and Cal Clutterbuck. Both were injured on Thursday and are listed as day-to-day.

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