With their East Division series knotted at 2-2 and essentially down to a best-of-three beginning Monday, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for buy-in.
The Islanders felt they got that Saturday in a 4-1 win at home, playing their signature tough defensive style while seizing on opportunities to score.
“If you look at when we have success, everybody contributes and we rely on each other,” New York coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s a great brotherhood in our (locker) room, and there’s a style that we play. Everybody has a piece of the big picture.”
The Islanders also recognize that Pittsburgh, the top seed in the division, can be expected to rebound Monday at home.
“Whatever we did (in Game 4), they’ve probably already forgotten about it, and they’re going to be fresh for Game 5,” Islanders center Mathew Barzal said.
And, apparently, ready to return to their noted style of playing a speed game that relies on getting the puck deep in their opponent’s end and attacking the net.
“We can’t kind of wait and see, and have that type of approach,” Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. “We’ve got to go in there and dictate the pace.”
Pittsburgh missed its chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead Saturday in large part because of an uncharacteristic lack of offense.
“It’s just going to take hard work and stick-to-itiveness,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve just got to stay with it.
“I don’t think we were quite as sharp (Saturday). We didn’t have as many looks as we had in the first few games. We’re going to have to work for those moving forward. But these guys are good offensive players.”
Pittsburgh also would do well to avoid taking penalties. The Islanders’ power play collected two goals Saturday.
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, in his second game back from a suspected knee injury, noticeably took three penalties Saturday, mostly stemming from frustration and retaliation over New York’s smothering play and attempts to get under the Pittsburgh stars’ skin.
“We understand they trash talk all the time against us,” Malkin said. “It’s hard to (just skate) away every time. After the whistle, you stay in a battle … and they’re coming to you. If they push your goalie or they push your partners, you need to be strong.”
But not, he said, to the point of putting your team at a disadvantage.
“I understand,” Malkin said. “I’ll be more disciplined next game.”
One common denominator in both Islanders series wins is who has been in net.
Rookie Ilya Sorokin played in Game 1 because Semyon Varlamov was coming off a minor injury, and New York took that game 4-3 in overtime. Varlamov returned for two games, won by Pittsburgh 2-1 and 5-4. Trotz chose to go back to Sorokin for Saturday, and it seems likely that will hold for Game 5.
“Every playoff game should have (a) high level (of) concentration, high level of focus and (you) should be ready 100 percent,” Sorokin said.
Sorokin stopped 29 of 30 shots Saturday, and the goal he allowed came in the third period after the Islanders had scored four goals.
“I think the big characteristic of Ilya is … his quickness,” New York winger Jordan Eberle said. “I mean laterally, side to side — some of the saves he makes are pretty amazing.”
–Field Level Media