If the Islanders are to come back from their 3-0 series deficit, they are going to have to do it as a team. "We over me" has been their mantra all season long since adopting the team-first mentality employed by Barry Trotz and their concerted efforts are being tested.
"We can't look back," Trotz said. "We can't correct anything that hasn't gone our way or anything that we've done poorly or anything that we've done well. It's gone. All we can do is look at the next game, the next drop of the puck next game and go forth from there. There's no way that you're going to win one game or one period and your back in the series. You've got to pull it back one shift at a time."
They're relying on same type of team effort that garnered 103 points during the regular season, the same type of team game that swept the Pittsburgh Penguins and the same type of team mentality that rallied around Robin Lehner when the goalie tried to take ownership of Game 3, on Wednesday night.
"We take it as a team," Trotz said Wednesday. "I appreciate him doing that, but we win and lose as a team."
Video: Practice Update 5/2: Barry Trotz
After all, there wasn't one single mistake that dug the Isles into their three-game deficit, just as there wasn't one single action that triumphed them into the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2016. Rather, it was, and it has been, the efforts as one collective, all-encompassing operation working in unison shift-by-shift, goal-by-goal and game-by-game.
"We're in a tough spot," Josh Bailey said. "[We] can't let the frustration set in. I think the series could easily be the other way around. That's how close are two teams are and how these games have went. It hurts thinking about it that way, but at the same time we're right in it. At the end of the day, we've just got to come and win one. I know it's a cliché, but it gives ourselves a chance back home. Just try and win this next one and see what happens."
Sure, the Islanders feel cheated by a few unlucky bounces or strikes on posts that could have swung the outcomes, but they know their fate is ultimately in their hands. In three games out of their clean sweep over Pittsburgh, the Isles made in-game comebacks orchestrated by rapid responses. They received big goals in big moments. This time around, the chances are still coming and aside from a pair of empty net goals on Wednesday night, every game has been determined by a single goal. But ultimately, the Isles lack of execution has cost them.
Video: Practice Update 5/2: Matt Martin
"We are getting the chances, but it's not enough," Matt Martin said. "We feel like we've played well enough to be in a better situation than we are right now. One goal has been the difference in all of the games. In the Pittsburgh series, we seemed to respond and score the big goals when we needed them. So far, in this series we haven't."
There is no denying the mounting frustrations, but the Isles know that dwelling on the past results won't win them hockey games or keep their season alive. They understand their cruel reality of being on the brink of elimination and the task of winning four straight games is overwhelming, but they more than anyone know it can be done.
"Last night, sitting here [in the locker room] you wonder how you put yourself in this position," Martin said. "But we came in here today with a fresh mind and a fresh attitude. We'll take it one step at a time. We won four in a row last series. We know we can do it."
"If you look at a staircase and you look at the top, it looks like quite the climb, but if you take it one step at a time you'll be alright," Martin added.
Video: Practice Update 5/2: Mathew Barzal
The stakes are significantly higher on Friday, but the Islanders belief in themselves and their capabilities to respond in the light of adversity is unwavering. Their resilience has been their narrative all season long.
"Everybody has doubted this group in every way, shape or form," Trotz said. "They don't doubt it in the room, and I don't doubt them."
"We want to continue to play," Martin said. "Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup. We're still alive. We're not dead yet."