It was a game where the Islanders showed the resolve and intensity that could set them up for a real run in the playoffs.
The 4-1 win Sunday afternoon over the Penguins gave the Islanders a commanding 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference First Round. But the box score doesn’t necessarily tell the full story of this game.
The impressive win is certainly important for this young Islanders team, but perhaps even more important is how they responded to adversity.
Game 3 was always going to be a challenge for the Isles, playing in a hostile environment against a Pittsburgh side that collectively hadn’t shown much in the series to date. This should have been the bounceback game for the Penguins, the one where they claw back into the series.
Down 1-0 at 12:54 of the first period, the Islanders could have easily been despondent. But this team wanted more. And what they didn’t want was a loss on Sunday.
“It was a great response,” coach Barry Trotz said after the game to MSG Networks’ AJ Mleczko. “We’ve done that all year.”
“The first goal doesn’t mean a lot to us,” Trotz continued. “We stayed sort of consistent with all four lines and didn’t worry about match-ups a whole lot and make sure we played the right way. There’s a lot of trust in that room, that if you’re on the ice, no matter who you’re up against, that you can get the job done.”
Within two minutes after the Penguins opened the scoring, the Islanders not only had leveled the score but took the lead. Quick goals from Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson spun the ice at PPG Paints Arena, completely changing the dynamics of Game 3.
It was a bit of backbone and character from a team that is playing some pretty hockey, fluidly moving the puck and working well off of each other. They also are doing the gritty work, clogging things up defensively and battling for the puck.
It is quite the combination and one that points towards this team not just advancing in the playoffs, but being capable of making a legit run. They are doing the little things and taking their chances.
Saying that the fourth game “will be the toughest,” Trotz knows that this series isn’t over. His team knows it as well.
After two home games where they fed off the energy of the crowd, it was always going to be tricky for the Isles to go on the road. That they responded the way they did, especially after giving up an early goal, speaks volumes about this team and their direction.
[Watch Game 4 Coverage Beginning at 7 PM on MSG+ & MSG GO Tuesday]