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5 Keys: Islanders at Lightning, Game 5

New York must push pace, stay confident; Tampa Bay eager to end series

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

TAMPA -- The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning play Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Sunday at Amalie Arena (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports). The Lightning lead the best-of-7 series 3-1.

Here are 5 Keys for Game 5:


The Lightning need to play with urgency even though they have three chances to win one more game and have gotten away with less than their best in the past two.

In the Eastern Conference First Round, the Lightning took a 3-1 lead against the Detroit Red Wings and eliminated them in Game 5 at home. Their reward: five days off. If they can do the same to the Islanders, they will make the Eastern Conference Final in only 10 games, saving wear and tear, and reducing the risk of injury.

"You have an opportunity to end the series next game, and you give yourself tons of rest if you do play well and you win the game," Lightning forward Alex Killorn said Friday. "We did against Detroit, and it helped us out."

Video: Lightning take 3-1 series lead on Garrison's OT goal


The last time the Islanders faced elimination was last year in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals. They played tight and generated 11 shots in a 2-1 loss. Only three shots came from forwards.

This time, the Islanders face elimination after back-to-back heartbreaking losses. In Games 3 and 4 of this series, they felt they gave their best performances of the playoffs. But in each game, they blew a third-period lead and lost early in overtime.

So stay loose. Focus on the positive. Stick with it.

"Eventually we're going to get our breaks," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Saturday. "If we continue to play this way, I'm confident things are going to turn around."


In Game 1, the Islanders took a 4-1 lead but nearly blew it. The Lightning got to within 4-3 before the Islanders scored an empty-net goal and won 5-3. In Game 3, the Islanders blew leads of 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3, losing 5-4 in overtime. In Game 4, they blew a 1-0 lead, losing 2-1 in OT.

The Lightning are too opportunistic and explosive to sit on a lead.

"Especially a team like that, when you've got opportunities, you want to be able to bury them and put them away and make it tough on them," Islanders captain John Tavares said Saturday. "As much as we did good things defensively [in Game 4], one chance got them back in the game."

Video: NYI@TBL, Gm1: Tavares goes top-shelf for PPG


Tavares had six goals and five assists in the Islanders' first seven playoff games. But he has gone without a point three games in a row, even though Games 3 and 4 were in New York, where Capuano had the last change and could get him away from Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman for the most part. Tavares has had chances -- he hit a post in Game 4 -- and set up chances for other players. But he needs to find the scoresheet even though he will see more of Hedman again on the road.

"Try to create more, and obviously when you get them, put them in," Tavares said Saturday. "Just got to beat the goaltender when you have those opportunities. … I don't try to focus too much on what [Hedman is] doing. He's obviously a very good player. I'm just trying to raise my game to another level and be consistent and be relied upon in all areas of the game."


Capuano doesn't want his defensemen playing conservatively even though the Lightning can pounce on turnovers and be dangerous in transition. In Game 3, three Islanders defensemen had a point. In Game 4, none did.

"I would like to see our D get more involved," Capuano said Saturday. "It's just the opposite of being conservative. I want to see us push the pace with the D and get those guys up in the play. … We need more of that. We need that mentality of pushing the pace a little bit more."

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