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Tavares likes Islanders' chances in Game 5

Captain confident New York can extend series against Tampa Bay on Sunday

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

BRANDON, Fla. -- Shortly after it was announced the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning would play Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Sunday afternoon, Islanders captain John Tavares had a conversation with coach Jack Capuano.

Tavares said it would be a good idea if the players left for Tampa a little earlier Saturday and skated at the Lightning practice facility, Brandon Ice Sports Forum. They didn't know then they'd be playing Sunday with their season on the line, but that will be the case at Amalie Arena (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports). Tampa Bay took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series with a 2-1 overtime win at Barclays Center on Friday.

"You always want to listen to what your players say," Capuano said Saturday. "I thought it'd be a good idea, how they felt in the last 3 o'clock game that we had (a 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay in Game 2), so whatever the guys feel is necessary to do, I'm going to jump on the bandwagon with them."

Tavares has been held without a point in three straight games after he had a goal and an assist in a 5-3 win in Game 1. But he remains confident the Islanders have a chance in the best-of-7 series given how well they played at home despite not getting the results they wanted.

"Obviously having to travel today and [the flight] being longer than a couple of hours, being a 3 o'clock game too, we didn't want to be sitting around too much when we got in," Tavares said. "We weren't going to skate earlier just because guys would be sleeping and trying to get our rest.

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

"It was obviously an optional skate today, but guys wanted to get their feet moving. And getting the morning off, you get up and it's little bit of an odd schedule that we're not as accustomed to, so it was just, 'Let's get here and skate if you want; if not, do what you need to do to be ready.'"

The Islanders have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs three times in the past four seasons and are playing in the second round for the first time since 1993. The Islanders lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in 2013 and fell short in Game 7 at the Washington Capitals a year ago.

"Every series we've been in has always been very tight and very hard-fought," Tavares said. "We've been in elimination situations before, we fought them off, and then obviously a couple of times where we weren't as successful. We just want to keep playing and build around the good things that we're doing and throw everything at them."

Judging by how loose they seemed Saturday, one wouldn't have gotten the impression the Islanders are on the brink of their season ending. Tavares is sure they'll be ready when the puck drops Sunday.

"I really didn't expect anything different," he said. "The way guys [are] approaching coming to the rink every day, we've always been able to move on to the next game. The next game's really been the most important for us all year. I don't think we've ever tried to dwell too much on the past. We try to find ways to get better, get out there and go to work, have some fun and enjoy the moment and try to take advantage of the opportunity."

The Islanders haven't gotten the bounces against the Lightning they did in the first round against the Florida Panthers, but Capuano said he believes they come through hard work. Considering how hard the players worked the past two games, the coach likes his team's chances in Game 5.

"Eventually we're going to get our breaks," he said. "If we continue to play this way, I'm confident that things are going to come around."

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