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Game 4 Preview: Islanders-Panthers

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

NEW YORK ISLANDERS VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS 

ISLANDERS LEAD SERIES: 2-1 

8 P.M., BARCLAYS CENTER. MSG+, USA, WCBS 880AM, BUY TICKETS

MORNING SKATE UPDATES:

FIVE THINGS

1. ISLANDERS CAN GO UP 3-1 WITH WIN:

There’s an opportunity in front of the New York Islanders on Wednesday night. A win in Game 4 on Wednesday would give them a 3-1 series lead over the Florida Panthers and put them in the driver’s seat heading back to Sunrise. 

The Islanders know what kind of opportunity this is. A 3-1 lead gives them three chances to close out the series, including a potential game at Barclays Center. The Islanders have gone up 3-1 in a series nine times in franchise history and they’ve closed the deal every time. 

"It's a big opportunity,” Matt Martin told NHL.com. “This is the biggest game of the series. If you can get up 3-1, that's huge. We need to be ready. They're going to be coming and obviously a bit more desperate, just like they were in Game 2. We need to be ready to answer that."

They were presented the same opportunity last season when they took a 2-1 series lead on the Washington Capitals, but lost a very tight Game 4 in overtime, 2-1. One year older and more experienced, the Islanders know how crucial Wednesday’s game is to the series. But getting that coveted lead is easier said than done. 

READ: PRINCE, PULOCK AND QUINE STEP UP

“That might be the hardest thing in the playoffs, to back up a win with a win,” John Tavares said. “Coming off a loss you want to correct things and there’s a determination to get back in the win column. As the series goes along, the room for error becomes smaller and smaller.”

The Panthers should know the stakes on Wednesday, so Tavares expects them to elevate their game. It seems counterintuitive, but the losing team can have an edge heading into the next game if they prepare properly. They have the ability to make adjustments, to learn from their mistakes. Tavares – thinking one step ahead – said the Islanders have to get on the Panthers’ level. 

“It’s a great opportunity for us and obviously for them they want to see it go back to their rink tied up,” Tavares said. “They are going to be a desperate team. We have to get that same level, feed off the energy of our crowd and being at home.”

2. ISLES NEED TO START FAST:



The Islanders have given up the first goal in each of the first three games, a trend they’re looking to halt on Wednesday. All three goals have come in the opening five minutes. While how you finish the game is more important than how you start, the Islanders know they can’t keep banking on their ability to come back. 

“We want to get more into our game right off the bat,” Tavares said. “I don’t think it’s a recipe for long-term success to keep giving up the first goal and having to come back down two goals. Obviously we believe in our group and we approach any situation the same and stay focused, but obviously that’s an area we can get better.”

3. KEEP THE POWER PLAY GOING:


The Islanders’ power play went 2-for-4 on Sunday night, scoring a big pair of goals in the comeback win. For the series, the Islanders are 3-of-9 with the man advantage, a huge improvement from their last two trips to the postseason, where they were a combined 2-of-34. 

“I think it’s been a little up and down, but we’ve stuck with it, made some plays and broken their pressure a little bit,” Tavares said. “Even though sometimes it doesn’t go your way, that’s part of playing in the playoffs. You have to put it behind you and focus on your next opportunity and we’ve done a good job of that.”

4. UTILIZE HOME-ICE ADVANTAGE:

Barclays Center was absolutely rocking on Sunday night, as the capacity crowd cheered on the Islanders for the first Stanley Cup Playoff game in Brooklyn. The Islanders – who went 25-11-5 at Barclays Center in the regular season – were looking to their fans to set give them home-ice advantage and by all accounts were thoroughly impressed. 

 “You could tell the fans were intense,” said coach Jack Capuano after Sunday’s game. “In a playoff series like this you’re going to need your fans to be the sixth man and that’s exactly what they were tonight. It was loud."

“The fans were great,” Capuano said. “Hopefully it will be the same way Wednesday night.”

The Islanders need to win preserve home-ice advantage, as a loss shifts it back to Florida. 

5. TROCHEK PRACTICING, BUT OUT FOR GAME 4:

Vincent Trocheck (foot) will not return to the Panthers’ lineup for Game 4, despite traveling with the team to New York and skating in practice on Tuesday. Trocheck was second on the Panthers with 25 goals in the regular season and fifth in points with 53. 

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