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Taub: Islanders’ first round series taking on 2013 vibes, especially last night

They say playoff hockey is full of highs and lows. That’s what makes it so special. You can be up one second and then incredibly down the next. And no more was that the case than in the Islanders’ game three loss last night.

The Isles were defeated by the Penguins 5-4 last night in a wild affair that was full of momentum swings and straight-up nastiness. Brandon Tanev batted down a loose puck past Semyon Varlamov with a little over three minutes left in regulation to give Pittsburgh the win and a 2-1 series lead heading into game four tomorrow afternoon.

Battling back from a 3-1 deficit to start the third period, it looked as if the Islanders were going to find a way. The only problem? The Penguins had an answer at every turn. After Anthony Beauvillier scored on the power play to tie the game, Jeff Carter — the newest Islander — killer put the Pens back on top minutes later on the ensuing power play. The same scenario would play out again minutes later after Cal Clutterbuck got the game even again for the Isles, only for Tanev to respond and pot home the eventual game-winner.

“I thought we played pretty well, we didn’t give them a lot. But anytime we gave them something they ended up scoring,” head coach Barry Trotz said after the loss.

Hearing that last part from Trotz’s quote brings back an all too familiar feeling for Islander fans (not a good one I might add) who witnessed when the Islanders and Penguins met back in the playoffs eight years ago. 

For it was in that series, the two teams split the first two games in Pittsburgh — albeit it being the reverse this series with the Isles stealing game one and the Pens emerging victorious in game two — and then played a chaotic game three inside a raucous Nassau Coliseum which ended in a 5-4 Penguins win in overtime. The similarities between that contest and last night’s tilt are almost scary. 

The Islanders had to battle back from multiple-goal deficits to get the game tied on both occasions. Every time they would get the momentum, they’d give it right back. And Semyon Varlamov, who was tremendous all regular season, looked as if he was channeling his Evgeni Nabakov. Nabakov couldn’t make a save in that third game back eight years ago every time the Isles fought back in the game. Varlamov followed suit last night, allowing five goals on 27 shots. Oh, and we can’t forget about all the extracurriculars that took place. 

“It felt like playoff hockey, that’s for sure,” said d-man Scott Mayfield. “That’s part of it. Those scrums, physical games. It’s good to see. That’s what the fans want and we want an intense game. I think we gave them that. We just have to find a way to start that right off the bat.”

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That 2013 series saw the Islanders strike back in game four to get the series tied, which they will have a shot at tomorrow. A rather large decision also looms for the Islanders too, whether to go back to rookie Ilya Sorokin who helped the team take game one, or to give Varlamov a chance to redeem himself after a bad performance. Furthermore, the Islanders will get the opportunity to salvage home ice. 

So, it’s on to game four. It’s the biggest game of the Isles’ season to this point. Going back to Pittsburgh down 3-1 will make for an incredibly difficult task to possibly win the series. 

The Islanders and their fans have seen this story before not too long ago.

Is this 2013 all over again?

It’s definitely starting to feel like it.

 

 

 

Follow Rob on Twitter at @RTaub_

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