UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- In overtime of Game 3 of a deadlocked Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against a star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins team was the last place many expected to find the New York Islanders on Sunday, especially after absorbing a 5-0 defeat four nights earlier to open the series.
But the players in the Islanders locker room believed.
And despite a heart-breaking 5-4 overtime loss Sunday at Nassau Coliseum that left them trailing Pittsburgh 2-1 in the series, the Islanders found plenty of positives in a game that -- like the series as a whole, so far -- has had plenty of ups and downs.
"I'm sure they're down right now, but we'll bounce back," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of his players moments after Chris Kunitz scored 8:44 into overtime to end Game 3. "I know the resiliency of these guys. I know our guys will work hard."
Resiliency is a word that has been used liberally around the Islanders' dressing room lately. But it's a fitting description of a team that hasn't seen the postseason in six years and is facing an opponent with legitimate aspirations of winning the Stanley Cup contender.
The Islanders have come back from two-goal deficits in each of the past two games -- a wild 4-3 win in Game 2 on Friday and Sunday -- and have shown the hockey world that they plan on sticking around in this series.
"We didn't come into this series wanting to make it close. We wanted to win the series. We believe in ourselves and all the guys in here," said forward Matt Moulson, who opened the scoring Sunday afternoon. "All year, I think we've been in situations like this. We just need to stick to our game. We can't get too high or too low at any point."
Hosting a playoff game for the first time in six years, the Islanders fed off their raucous home crowd at Nassau Coliseum, a building that hasn't seen a second-round playoff series in 20 years. From the opening puck drop, the building was as loud as it's been in years, giving the Islanders a lift throughout a game that looked to be well in hand when the Penguins led 4-2 early in the third.
"It was fantastic. People here are some of the most passionate hockey people I've ever seen," said John Tavares, who tied the game, 4-4, midway through the third period. "They've got a lot of pride and love the tradition of the New York islanders. We fed off that and we're excited for them in Game 4."
After all, there will be a Game 4. If the Islanders have their say, there will be a Game 6 at the Coliseum, as well. For a team that many counted out long before this series started, that cautious optimism is proving plenty of skeptics wrong.
"We've got good character guys. The sun is going to come up tomorrow. It takes four to win the series," Capuano said. "At this stage, if you want to be a world champion, you're going to have to go through ups and downs and adversity. So I don't worry about our hockey team."
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