After missing a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead for the second straight year, the Islanders will once again have their feet to the fire as they face Florida on the road for a crucial Game 5 Friday (8 p.m., MSG+, CNBC).
The Panthers took Game 4, 2-1, in what was a dull effort by Jack Capuano’s squad.
“You won’t win too many games when you score one goal,” Capuano told reporters. “We didn’t create much. We got one line creating all our offense. We’ve got to find secondary scoring. If not, it’s gonna be tough.”
The one line that’s been consistent all series long for the Islanders has been the line led by John Tavares, who notched his club’s only goal of the tilt.
“We just didn’t make it hard enough on them,” the Isles’ captain told reporters while sizing up Game 4. “I just think we were half a step slow.”
The Islanders were lucky to escape the first period of Game 4 scoreless as they put forth only five shots, while the Panthers dominated the flow of play. Capuano described it as “the worst we’ve played all year.”
The tie was finally broken late in the second period as Jaromir Jagr found Teddy Purcell for a goal off a rebound opportunity, giving the Panthers the early lead for the fourth time in the series. The Islanders were fortunate that the Panthers committed some foolish penalties later in the frame, as the Isles notched their lone goal on a 5-on-3 chance with 15.2 seconds remaining.
Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic tallied the decisive goal halfway through the third period and the Islanders couldn’t recover, even with a late power play and over a minute of 6-on-5 play to end the game.
“We didn’t play well enough to win,” Kyle Okposo told reporters afterwards. “We had some spurts of good hockey but overall it wasn’t our best game.”
Attention once again will turn to the fact that the Islanders haven’t won a playoff series since 1993, but the Panthers also lack a postseason pedigree, as they’ve failed to record a playoff series win since they made the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996.
The Islanders can’t afford to look back at history, and need to turn their sights on playing from ahead instead of behind. The Isles have allowed the first goal in all four games this series, and have played with a lead less than 10 percent of the time.
As Capuano alluded to, the lower lines for the Isles are not doing their share. That includes the once-mighty fourth line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, who’ve all failed to record a point this series and have a combined plus/minus rating of minu-8.
The Islanders saw what happened last year when they allowed the Capitals to hang around in the series instead of finishing them off, and they could be doomed to repeat that if they don’t step it up in a critical Game 5.