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Islanders focus on 'positives' entering Game 5

Must beat Lightning on Sunday to stay alive; Tampa Bay one win from returning to conference final

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor


Eastern Conference Second Round

Tampa Bay leads best-of-7 series 3-1

TV: 3 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN

The New York Islanders put forth strong performances in two home games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Second Round, but lost in overtime each time and will play with their season on the line in Game 5 at Amalie Arena on Sunday.

The Islanders blew a one-goal lead in the third period in Game 3 on Tuesday and in Game 4 on Friday, then lost before three minutes elapsed in OT each time. But New York was loose at practice Saturday and is not ready to quit.

"You've just got to take the positives," Islanders captain John Tavares said. "Obviously in the playoffs, it's such a fine line. It's very tight and we've just got to make the plays when they're there. We obviously have to try and capitalize on some more of our opportunities, especially from last game. The game that we won (Game 1), we were able to build a little bit of a lead, so hopefully, especially a team like that when you've got your opportunities, you want to be able to bury them and put them away and make it tough on them." 

Tampa Bay is one win away from a return to the Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning trailed 1-0 entering the third period of Game 4 on Friday, but Nikita Kucherov tied it and Jason Garrison won it 1:34 into overtime.

"Garrison gets the winning goal [Friday] night, Brian Boyle gets the winner [Tuesday] night … we're getting great team contributions from everybody," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Saturday. 

Islanders team scope: New York arrived in Tampa shortly after 1 p.m. ET on Saturday and headed to the Lightning practice rink for a quick skate. "I think the mindset's real good," coach Jack Capuano said. "Mentally, we're a strong team. We had a great video [session] today, great meetings today, and just going back how we played the last six periods. We've got a good group. For us, it's just to make sure we do the right things. Right now, you've got to win a hockey game. That's all it is, so it's one shift at a time." Forwards Kyle Okposo and Cal Clutterbuck did not skate, but Capuano said they had maintenance days. 

Lightning team scope: Tampa Bay did not practice Saturday. The Lightning will likely dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen again in Game 5. Defenseman Luke Witkowski played 2:14 in his postseason debut Friday. Cooper said before Game 4 that defenseman Anton Stralman (fractured leg) was doubtful for Sunday. Forward J.T. Brown (upper body) skated Friday morning, but Cooper said he'd be shocked if Brown played in this series. Forward Steven Stamkos (vascular surgery) is not expected to play; he must be taken off blood thinners before he can return. 

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