Islanders — Splitting Games, Coming Home — Now What?


Banana splits taste good.

Hockey playoff splits aren’t bad either, especially when they are crafted on the  road.

The exception in this case, however, is that the Islanders are returning home tied with Florida at one game apiece when it might have been two-zip for the Brooklynites.

Which now inspires us to focus on the first-ever Cup playoff game in Brooklyn on Sunday night at Barclays Center (7:30 PM, MSG+) with the Islanders having to re-discover the winning groove they lost Friday night in Sunrise.

Following Florida’s 3-1 victory, Jack Capuano has some serious thinking to do because the obvious is, well, obvious.

“You are not going to win,” the coach confesses, “If you don’t score.”

Despite a series tied at one, the Brooklynites have been outplayed, outskated and out-muscled through 120 minutes of playoff hockey. More often than not the Panthers attack has been better organized with “Possession” their middle name.

For the second straight night, it was the superior goaltending of Thomas Greiss that saved his mates from a blowout. “He gave us a chance to win,” adds Cappy.

The netminding difference this second time around was that Greiss’ opposite, Roberto Luongo, was a good 75 percent better than in Game 1. That plus his 41 saves explains plenty. Then again too many of the Islanders shots were blanks.

“Luongo was much stronger in the win,” says MSG Networks analyst Rick DiPietro. “He was in the right place at the right time.”

Add to that a Panthers strategy of intimidation — ignited by Shawn Thornton, Derek MacKenzie and Garrett Wilson — that seemed to push the Isles off their game.

For the second straight night Reilly Smith was an Islander tormentor and for the second straight game, he dipsy-doodled around the visitors defense and scored the pivotal first  goal. In back-to-back games, he emerges plus-4.

Trailing by two at the start of the third period, New York hardly threatened in the opening minutes. Meanwhile, Gerard Gallant’s Cats maintained pressure against the visitors who appeared to run out of gas.

A final frame power play that offered promise went for naught as hopes for a comeback faded like a fog over New York Bay.

“They couldn’t get twenty guys going in the same direction,” concludes MSG Network analyst Butch Goring. “And were too methodical on the power play.”

If there was a modicum of hope for New York it was the Isles ability to once again shut down Florida’s leading scorer — and bionic man — Jaromir Jagr.

That — and John Tavares‘ close-but-no-cigar late goal —  demonstrated that quit is not part of the Islanders lexicon.

Before Sunday night’s game unfolds, the Islanders high command must fix the following:

1. Either break up the second line of Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson and Nickolay Kulemin, which failed to contain Florida’s second unit ace Reilly Smith. Or.

2. Figure out why the defense failed to help the above on back checking blunders.

3. Find better face-off takers, especially on the power play.

4. The power play could have put the Isles ahead in the first period. It needs a bit of tinkering.

We’ll find out soon enough if WIN can return to the Brooklyn vocabulary.

Until then, anyone for a banana split?