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First Round

Islanders know more work needed to close playoff series against Penguins

Look for sweep heading into Game 4, but understand difficulty of getting one more win

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH -- Barry Trotz has been in this situation many times before, one win from advancing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Rarely, if ever, is the fourth victory easy to attain, even if the New York Islanders have a 3-0 lead in this best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins that continues with Game 4 at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2, ATTSN-PT, MSG, MSG+). That's why Trotz and his players aren't about to get ahead of themselves, particularly against a Penguins team that has the firepower to get back in this series.

 

[RELATED: Complete Islanders vs. Penguins series coverage]

 

"They've played in big games before," Trotz said Monday. "We'll have our hands full as we have every game, for sure. We're going to play our game and go through that process."

The Penguins, who averaged 3.30 goals per game during the regular season, have scored five in the first three games of the series. Center Sidney Crosby, who led Pittsburgh with 100 points (35 goals, 65 assists) during the regular season, is seeking his first of the postseason. Forward Jake Guentzel, who scored 40 goals, has yet to find the net in this series.

So after limiting the Penguins to 26 shots on goal in a 4-1 win in Game 3 on Sunday, the Islanders plan on simply staying the course.

"I think our mindset is we pick up where we left off," Islanders captain Anders Lee said. "We can tweak things that we need to improve on and stuff like that, but I think the mindset is to stay consistent."

The Islanders have gotten better defensively consistently during the series; they allowed 44 shots on goal in their 4-3 overtime win in Game 1, then 33 in a 3-1 victory in Game 2.

In Game 3, the Penguins' scoring chances were few and far between, especially during the second and third periods, when New York outshot them 28-18. The Islanders simply haven't allowed the Penguins to play their style.

Video: Breaking down the Islanders Game 3 win over Penguins

Trotz said it took some time to become accustomed to how the Penguins play, considering they hadn't played since Dec. 10.

"I think there's a lot of trust in our game," Trotz said. "We keep adjusting a little bit. Not changing our game, just making subtle adjustments. The more you play a team, the more you understand them.

"You have to remember, we hadn't played the Penguins since back in December, so there's a big gap. The memory when you play all these teams, there was probably 38 or 40 games between the last time we played each other. It takes a game or two to understand their game. Once you understand their game, then you're able to lock down certain areas and make small adjustments that help you take away some of the opportunities that they do create."

This is the first time the Islanders have led 3-0 in a best-of-7 series since the 1983 Stanley Cup Final, when they swept the Edmonton Oilers. Teams that have been in this position have won the series 186 of 190 times.

But New York couldn't care less about how much history is in its favor heading into Game 4.

"You're up 3-0 in a series, it's all going well, you feel great, it can turn quickly if you don't continue to remain focused and play the right way," Islanders left wing Matt Martin said. "We don't want to give them any life. We know how dangerous they are. We're understanding and focusing on how important the next game is."

That's the message Trotz has conveyed since the buzzer sounded at the end of Game 3. Yes, the Islanders are in a tremendous position, but the series isn't over until the players are shaking hands at center ice.

That could happen as early as Tuesday. If not, the series would shift back to Nassau Coliseum for Game 5 on Thursday.

"We've been approaching every game as simple games," Trotz said. "We've got to win another game, be it tomorrow or the next day or the next day, whatever. Our focus has always been on the process of the one game at a time, one shift at a time, and just play the way we've played.

"We haven't had to make a lot of adjustments in our game the last probably 10 games because we believe in what we're doing. Today we met and we fixed a couple of things that we feel that we can be stronger at. Hopefully that pays dividends tomorrow for us."

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