The Islanders have an opportunity to close out a playoff series at Nassau Coliseum Wednesday night for the first time since 1993.
It is a best case scenario for the Isles, who had two of their most competitive performances of the series in front of their home crowd in Games 3 and 4. And after pulling out a triumphant win in double overtime Monday night in Pittsburgh to put the Penguins on the brink of elimination – despite dispiriting play through a majority of regulation – the Islanders will look to channel that home-ice advantage once again.
“To me, that’s what good teams do,” head coach Barry Trotz said after Monday’s win, which gave the Isles a 3-2 series lead. “When you’re not at your best, you find a way to hang in there. You find a way to win. That, to me, shows a lot of character to our group.”
The winner of this series will go on to face the Bruins in the second round, after Boston eliminated the Capitals in the East Division’s other first-round series with a 3-2 victory Sunday night in Washington.
Considering the Bruins advanced after five games and have been resting while they wait for their next opponent, the Islanders certainly would prefer to avoid a Game 7.
The Coliseum is expected to welcome 9,000 fans Wednesday night, which is 2,200 more than they had in Game 4. In that game, the crowd was considered the team’s “seventh player” and fueled the Isles to a dominant 4-1 victory that evened over the past weekend.
“I’ll have to make a call to the governor, see if he can open it right up for us, get all our fans in there,” Trotz joked Tuesday, which was an off-day for the team.
The Islanders have qualified for the playoffs in all three years under Trotz, and have played in their fair share of series-clinching games. In their first crack at taking a series, the Isles have a 1-2 record.
After sweeping the Penguins in four games during the first round of the 2018-19 playoffs, the Islanders’ next opportunity to close out a series came against the Capitals in the first round of the bubble playoffs last season. The Islanders ultimately needed five games to do it after going up 3-0 in the series.
With a 3-1 series lead over the Flyers in the second round last season, the Islanders whiffed in overtime and double overtime in Games 5 and 6. The Isles managed to take Game 7 with a convincing 4-0 victory.
Trotz said he believes the Islanders have had some of their best games in series-clinchers.
“We got to our game and we stayed to our game,” he said. “That would probably be the statement. When we get to our game and we’re able to stay with our game, in those really important clinching games, we’ve had success. When we haven’t been able to, it’s a little more difficult to.
“Even the loss to Tampa Bay last year, I thought we played a pretty solid game when our backs were against the wall, actually won in overtime game against them to push it to six games. Even in the sixth game, we were pretty good. I think our guys have responded and I’m pretty confident they will [Wednesday].”