8 P.M., BB&T CENTER. MSG+, CNBC, WCBS 880AM
1. BEST OF THREE
Tied 2-2 through four games, the Islanders and Panthers are essentially in a best-of-three series entering Game 5.
“We knew it was going to be a hard-fought series,” Travis Hamonic said after a Game 4 loss. “That's what we're in. It’s a best-of-three now at this point. We played alright when we were in their barn, so we're heading back there and ready to rock."
Winning Game 5 is critical, at least from a statistical/historical perspective. According to Islanders statistician Eric Hornick, via the Elias Sports Bureau, teams that win Game 5 to break 2-2 series tie win the series 78.4 % of time (189-52 record).
“You have to turn the page whether it's a win or a loss,” Hamonic said. “At this point in the season, you have no time to dwell on it, so you get right back at it. We just have to keep working. We know it's hard to win games this time of year. There are a lot of intangibles going on out there. We lose this one, but we get right back at it. We're really confident in our group and in our team that we can get the job done."
Ryan Pulock’s playoffs are currently being put on hold.
The rookie defenseman will be sidelined for 1-2 weeks with an upper-body injury, suffered in the third period of Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Panthers. His return to the lineup likely depends on whether or not the Islanders advance to the second round.
"He’ll probably be out for the rest of the series, don’t know how long. First indication was 1-2 weeks with upper body," Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “It’s just tough to lose another guy. He was really playing well for us as a young guy and really coming into his own.”
3. TAVARES SCORING:
John Tavares scored his third goal of the series – the Islanders’ lone goal – on Wednesday night, giving the captain seven points in four games. Tavares is tied for second in playoff scoring, trailing Florida’s Reilly Smith and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov by one point as of Thursday afternoon.
While Tavares is producing at an elite level, Jack Capuano said he wants to see more from his secondary scorers. The Islanders have averaged 4.5 goals-per-game in their two wins and just one goal in each of their two losses.
4. SPECIAL TEAMS:
With so little time and space available at even strength, special teams are becoming increasingly more important as this series goes on. The Islanders’ power play has clicked, going 4-of-13 (30.8%) over the first four games, scoring in Games 3 and 4, while the penalty kill is 9-of-11 (81.8%).
The Islanders’ penalty kill strategy has been to stay out of the box, as their 11 minors are the second fewest penalties taken in the playoffs (Nashville has taken seven in three games).