BRANDON, Fla. — Goaltending, special teams, health and puck luck. He wouldn’t rank them in any order, but that’s what Islanders coach Jack Capuano says has been a long-time formula for winning in the postseason.
“Ever since I’ve been involved in the game, that’s what it comes down to in playoff hockey,” Capuano said Friday at the Lightning’s practice center, where the Islanders skated for an hour.
In today’s NHL, many general managers, coaches and players would add a fifth element: Speed.
And the Islanders, who are preparing for Saturday’s Game 2 of the best-of-seven playoff series, have to get a handle on the quick-strike Lightning to prevent the series from being tied at a game apiece before the teams travel to Brooklyn for Games 3 and 4 next week.
“This series here, you can’t stand around,” Capuano said. “You’ve got to be in constant motion all the time. This is a fast team, a skilled team. And that Kucherov line is dangerous.”
Indeed, the trio known as the Triplets — Nikita Kucherov, who had a goal, seven shots on goal and 12 shot attempts on Wednesday night; Ondrej Palat, with a goal and 11 shot attempts, and Tyler Johnson, with five shot attempts — can wreak havoc.
Consider the third period in Game 1. The Islanders led 4-1, but the Lightning found its legs and fired 17 shots on goal in the final 20 minutes, and the Islanders depended on goaltender Thomas Greiss to salvage a 5-3 victory.
Said defenseman Nick Leddy, who led the Islanders in ice time in Game 1 at 24:44: “We didn’t have our best period. We got away from our game plan. They had the full-court press going on and we didn’t answer as well as we could’ve and should’ve . . . We have to take away their time and space.”
Leddy and Travis Hamonic, who played 23:23, will have to be a formidable pair against the Triplets and Alex Killorn, who has three goals and six points in six playoff games, including five against the Detroit Red Wings, and elusive Jonathan Drouin, with five points.
“They came hard, but we just stopped being physical, taking the body, like we did in the first 40 minutes,” Capuano said.
That’s one way to slow down a high-paced north-south attack that often has a defenseman as a trailer on the rush.
“They’re going to have their fourth man, [Jason] Garrison, Victor] Hedman, those guys are coming,” Capuano said. “It’s the new NHL. There’s a lot of speed and skill involved in it, but we are definitely aware of their second wave.”
And maybe there’s a sixth element in these playoff challenges: Intensity. It will be high at Amalie Arena for the Saturday matinee. “We have to match it for sure,” Leddy said. “They’re down 1-0, they’re going to come, especially being in their own building.”
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