Barry Trotz didn’t expect his former team to go down quickly or easily. But he did expect the Islanders to respond better to the Capitals’ desperation.
The Islanders got away from their game Tuesday night and missed their first chance at closing out the 2018 Stanley Cup champs in the first-round playoff series. With a day to digest what went wrong — a combination not matching the Capitals’ mindset, costly penalties and getting loose defensively — the Islanders will have another chance to finish them off in Game 5 on Thursday night.
“The playoffs are all about momentum, they’re all about adjustments, they’re all about those moments and how you react to them. I didn’t think we reacted very good [Tuesday] night,” Trotz said Wednesday. “We didn’t have enough push. We didn’t have enough will to beat a good, desperate team. I know a lot about that core, they have obviously some real strong character there and they weren’t going away.
“I don’t think anybody, when they put this series together, looked at it and [went], ‘It’s going to be a quick series.’ If anything, it probably would have been the odds would be that it would have been quick the other way. So I didn’t expect them to go away. I know too much about that core and we didn’t play well enough to deserve to win that hockey game [Tuesday] night.”
The Islanders got the start they wanted, going up 2-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game, but lacked a finishing punch.
They took two early penalties in the first two-plus minutes of the second period, which helped shift the momentum and take the Islanders out of their five-on-five game that had been strong. Eleven seconds after Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a four-on-four goal, Mathew Barzal took his second holding penalty of the period, which eventually led to Alex Ovechkin striking on the power play to tie it.
From there, the Islanders didn’t have much of an answer as they let the Capitals dictate play instead of doing it themselves, as they had for much of the first three games of the series.
“They outplayed us in the second and probably for the most part in the third [Tuesday] and now it’s up to us to kind of get back to our game and respond the right way,” winger Matt Martin said. “So we got a chance to do that [Thursday] night. We still like where we are in the series and we still have a lot of confidence as a group.”
That much was evident Wednesday, as the Islanders got the day off from practice and didn’t seem overly worried about only their second loss in eight postseason games in Toronto. Defenseman Devon Toews spoke of just a couple areas that needed cleaning up — like being “a little [too] loose in our D zone,” which gave the Capitals too many scoring chances — in order to bounce back.
But Thursday the Islanders will be tasked with making sure they find their game in time to make Game 4 just a blip instead of inviting the Capitals back into the series.
“I think if we do the right things and we play the way we want to play … and play the Islander way and make it hard on them and just play like we play when we have success, I think that’s the thing we have to focus on,” Anthony Beauvillier said. “It’s not really about them. It’s about us getting the job done next game.”
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