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Islanders looking ahead, not back for Game 4

New York out to take 3-1 lead, control of series against Panthers

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders have been in this position before. In fact, they were here 12 months ago. 

The similarities between this Eastern Conference First Round series against the Florida Panthers and last year's against the Washington Capitals are remarkable. The Islanders won the opener on the road in each series, lost Game 2 and returned home to win Game 3 in overtime. 

Thomas Hickey's goal Sunday gave the Islanders a 4-3 win at Barclays Center and a 2-1 lead in this best-of-7 series. Game 4 is Wednesday at Barclays Center (8 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, FS-F).

The Islanders know they can draw on what happened last year if need be, but all they were focused on at practice Tuesday was this year's Game 4.

"I think you just have a good understanding of what brings you success," captain John Tavares said. "All of us have been through it another year, and that experience goes a long way. It's amazing how much more you understand the ebbs and flows of a playoff series, game to game, day to day, even period to period. I think we're just well prepared."

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The Islanders rallied from a 2-0 deficit in Game 3 in front of a capacity crowd in Brooklyn. Coach Jack Capuano knows his team can make improvements and is hoping the fans can bring a similar type of energy Wednesday.  

"I don't even look at the 2-1 lead," Capuano said. "At the end of the day, it's great we have a 2-1 lead, (but) it's Game 1 for us. This is Game 1. It's a new day. You've got to put that on the backburner. There's some things we need to do better, and I'm sure they're saying the same thing over there. We have to compete hard and continue to work and do the things that has made us successful. Just control what you can control.

"I'm not looking at right now it's 2-1. We had a day to reflect on it, it was a great atmosphere and a great building and we need that again (Wednesday). For us, it's business as usual."

A win Wednesday would give the Islanders back-to-back victories in the playoffs for the first time since the opening round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2002, when they won Games 3 and 4 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. With the Panthers needing a win in Game 4 to avoid a 3-1 series deficit heading into Game 5 on Friday at BB&T Center, Tavares knows New York must find a way to match Florida's intensity. 

"Each game just becomes that much more crucial," Tavares said. "There's less room for error obviously. It's a great opportunity for us, and obviously for them; they want to go back to their rink tied up. It's obviously a big game in this series and I think as we try to approach it, the next game is always where the focus has to be and that's where it is now and understanding the way we have to play and build off of the good things and the importance of the game ahead."

The Islanders were close to going home last year with a 2-0 series lead against Washington, but blew a two-goal lead in Game 2 and lost 4-3. The Capitals won the series in seven games. 

The Islanders are presented Wednesday with another opportunity to put a stranglehold on a series on home ice.

"It's a new ballgame," left wing Matt Martin said. "I think you can learn from last year. Going into Game 2, we really wanted to take that one. We obviously didn't have the lead like we did against Washington, but you really want to take control of the series.

"It's a big opportunity. 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."

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