A tougher mindset, not enhanced execution, is what the Islanders need in Saturday’s rematch against the Penguins to conclude this four-game road trip. And coach Barry Trotz certainly does not want his team focused on a continued effort to go after defenseman Mike Matheson.
The Islanders had a three-game winning streak and an eight-game point streak — both season highs — snapped in Thursday night’s chippy 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh.
"I think, more than anything, maybe we were getting a little too cute, trying to make that extra pass," Jordan Eberle said after Friday’s practice at PPG Paints Arena. "When you’re fighting it a little bit and you’re not scoring, like we couldn’t last night, you just want to try and get pucks around the net and find a secondary rebound."
The Islanders certainly had enough time in the offensive zone to score more. They just never got enough bodies to the crease to make it difficult on goalie Tristan Jarry.
"It’s more will," Trotz said. "You can get to the net if you want to. You’ve just got to decide you want to do it. It’s all on us and it’s all on the player to get to the net. We need to get to the net and, if we don’t, there’s nothing I can do from the bench to grab them and put them in front of the net.
"They’re trying to box us out, too, so you’ve got to battle for those inches and those hard places. We didn’t make it hard enough on their goalie last night."
Saturday will be the fourth of six games between the teams this month — the Islanders are 1-1-1 — and familiarity certainly breeds hard feelings.
Casey Cizikas fought the Penguins’ Brandon Tanev in the first period, the Islanders’ first fighting major of the season, in retaliation for Tanev’s unpenalized cross-check on him in the Penguins’ 4-3 shootout win at Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 11.
After Matheson was called for boarding Mathew Barzal at 15:27 of the third period, the teams totaled an additional 32 penalty minutes. Matt Martin tried to fight Matheson, who, with the Panthers last season, hurt Johnny Boychuk with an illegal check to the head in Game 1 of the qualifying series.
"I think it’s probably the end of it," Trotz said. "But if there’s another shot, then it’ll get going again."
Exacting payback on Matheson certainly was not Friday’s theme in practice.
"You want to learn from what happened last night and why we didn’t have success," defenseman Andy Greene said. "It’s about getting the energy back. The most important game after a loss is the next one. So we’ll be ready to go."
Notes & quotes: All of the Islanders practiced Friday, but Michael Dal Colle left the ice early. Trotz indicated Dal Colle, out of Thursday’s lineup in favor of Kieffer Bellows, might be questionable for Saturday. "We’ll see where he is," Trotz said . . . Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is expected to play in his 1,000th career game.
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