The Islanders found themselves in familiar territory down 2-1 in their second round series to the Boston Bruins. Underdogs coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss in game three at home with the fat lady warming up.
Brad Marchand’s overtime-winning goal looked like a series-defining goal. The Bruins may have expected as much after Craig Smith scored a double-overtime winner against the Washington Capitals in their first-round matchup. The goal occurred on a miscue from goaltender Ilya Samsonov and the Caps never recovered. The Isles on the other hand seem to be made of Teflon.
Under head coach Barry Trotz, the Islanders have proven to be one of the league’s most resilient teams. They battled back from a 2-1 series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins to win their first-round matchup 4-2. After winning two straight games to take a 3-2 series lead, they could do the same to Boston Wednesday night.
Talking to the media after that game three defeat, Mathew Barzal said, “It’s tough for about ten minutes and then it’s the playoffs so you turn the page. We know there’s a lot of good things tonight to build off of. We are excited, we’ve been in this situation against Pitt, so we are just going to grind.”
They have grinded their way to control a second straight series after a crushing game three loss at home. Their resilience goes well beyond this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. In last year’s playoff run the Isles showed their character time and time again.
In the second round against the Philadelphia Flyers the Isles had a 3-1 series lead. The Flyers won the next two games in overtime and double overtime. Momentum was gone and for many teams the chance of recovery would be slim, but the blue and orange dominated game seven and advanced to the Conference Finals. Then the Tampa Bay Lightning embarrassed the Isles in game one, 8-2. The Islanders seemed over matched and it seemed the end was near. Before long they were down 3-1 in the series.
In game five, the Isles nabbed a double overtime winner to force a game six. Game six saw the comeback attempt stifled by Andrei Vasilevskiy. But it took overtime and a war for Tampa to advance.
Even this season, the Isles lost captain Anders Lee for the season due to an ACL injury. They fell from first to fourth in the MassMutual Eastern division. They even flirted with missing the playoffs altogether. Optimism for another long playoff run was fleeting.
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Now the Isles have had two game three losses at home. One where they scored three goals in a third period to see their effort erased in the final minutes. Another where a seemingly harmless shot from an odd angle against the run of play in overtime found its way past Semyon Varlamov who prior to that had been outstanding.
Both times, with the odds stacked high against them, they have overcome adversity.
Trotz laughed and reiterated what has become part of the Islanders DNA. “There’s no panic,” the Isles bench boss said following game three against the Bruins. “We were in the same situation before. We’ll just have to look forward. We don’t look back.”
That Marchand goal seemed like a turning point but, the Isles have not looked back. They continue to prove the hockey world wrong. Wednesday night presents another opportunity for the Isles to do again.
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryandunni