Islanders look to bounce back in Game 3 against Lightning
SYOSSET, N.Y. (AP) The New York Islanders know there are several areas they need to improve to avoid falling behind in their second-round series against Tampa Bay.
They need to find a way to beat the Lightning's defensive pressure, step up their passing and just be more aggressive.
Returning home after the loss in the last game evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece, the Islanders will look to get back on the winning track when they host the Lightning in Game 3 on Tuesday night (7 p.m. EDT, NBCSN).
''As a group, we know we can do more, guys have seen it on video,'' coach Jack Capuano said Monday after the team's practice. ''We just weren't ourselves there for a big part of that game. So we all need to be better and I'm sure we will.''
Islanders captain John Tavares agreed, adding: ''We obviously want to play a lot better than we did on Saturday. We know it wasn't our best.''
New York, held to eight shots over the final two periods in the 4-1 loss on Saturday, knows it has to generate more offensive chances – and that starts with shooting more.
''I think it's just a function of us not moving our feet,'' Capuano said. ''(The Lightning) are a good team. They rely on their speed and skill and quickness and deception, and if you're going to stand around and watch, it's going to be a long period for you.''
The coaching staff made it clear that the players needed to pick up their intensity and be more physical.
''Message was served,'' defenseman Travis Hamonic said, ''and that's the style of our play that we've had all year, quite frankly, since I've been here my six years. … It's probably one of those things where it's quite never good enough, you can always try to do more and be more physical.''
New York displayed some of that in latter parts of the third period with some pushing and shoving in the closing minutes, and seeing his players backing each other up was one of the positives for Capuano.
''When things got a little edgy there, we had some pushback,'' he said. ''We play hard, we're resilient and we want to continue to see that.''
Playing more aggressively could help against the Lightning's speedy forwards, including Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin. Those four have combined for five goals and four assists in the first two games.
Tavares believes one way to slow them down would be for New York, outshot 67-42 in this series, to step up its own intensity on offense.
''Any time you can make those guys defend and use their energy in their own zone, having to get the puck and have to defend, you see it wears them down,'' Tavares said. ''They're less effective down there, so make it harder on those guys, I think all over the ice. Use our size, our strength, and obviously use our speed, too.''
Better puck movement could also help against Tampa Bay's strong penalty-kill, which has allowed two goals in nine chances in this series, and just three in 34 overall in this postseason.
The Islanders dealt with a packed schedule down the stretch with six games in the final nine days of the regular season, then beat Florida in the first round in six games over an 11-day stretch. They've had to contend with extra rest in this series – due to arena availability issues in both Tampa and Brooklyn – with two off days between each of the first four games.
''It takes you out of the rhythm a little bit,'' fourth-line forward Matt Martin said, ''but at the same time it allows you to spend some time with each other, with your families and get some rest along the way. They're dealing with the same thing. We just got to be ready for (Game 3).''
The Islanders might be benefiting from the extra gaps between games as forward Josh Bailey and defenseman Ryan Pulock – both injured in the opening round against the Panthers – have had time to heal and could be back in the lineup Tuesday night.
New York will also be looking to be energized back home in front of the raucous Barclays Center crowd that was fired up in the first round as the Islanders – playing their first season in Brooklyn after 43 years at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island – advanced to the second round for the first time since 1993.
''Our crowd obviously has always been a big boost for us,'' Tavares said. ''(We're) looking to feed off them, play with some controlled emotion and be able to fuel some of that and get some of that energy.''
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