After allowing three goals to the Penguins power play in Game 3, the Islanders focus in Monday’s team meetings was staying out of the penalty box in Game 4.
“We’ve got to be more disciplined - there’s no question,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “[Pittsburgh] has gotten quite a few goals on the power play. The penalty kill is something we’ve got to clean up. But discipline with and without the puck is a big part of the game, and with their quickness we’ve got to make sure we defend a little bit harder and a little bit smarter.”
The Islanders took six minor penalties in Game 3’s 5-4 overtime loss, and have been on the penalty kill 13 times in the series (4.3 times per game), a significant uptick from their regular season average of less than three times per game. As a result, the Pittsburgh power play, which ranked second in the NHL during the regular season at 24.7%, has struck six times during the series.
“Our penalty kill has to be better,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “The best way to do that is to stay out of the box and not take the undisciplined penalties. Those can end up killing us. There’s a lot of things that play into it, but first and foremost, you’ve got to be mentally aware of not taking a bad penalty. You have to realize that you’re putting your team at a disadvantage. Being in the right positions, being aware and keeping our feet moving are going to be keys going into Game 4.”
Emotions have run high in the series, as the physical play has amped up from the regular season. Often times, one hard hit results in a retaliatory shot from an opposing player, and that’s something Travis Hamonic says the Islanders need to be wary of going forward.
“There’s obviously a fine line to cross, and you don’t want to get caught up in the emotion of the game and do something stupid,” Hamonic said. “It seems like the retaliatory hits are always the ones that get called, it’s not the first ones. Obviously their power play is going pretty well right now, and as a group collectively I think we’ve got to do a better job with discipline all over the ice and within our system as well.”
As Hamonic continued to explain, that doesn’t mean lightening up on the physical play. It just means being able to toe the line between right and wrong.
“When we have an opportunity to be tough on them and hit them, we need to be hard in the corners and grind them down,” Hamonic said. “We can still do a little bit better of a job with that. Obviously you’ve got to watch the fine line that you’re on and try not to cross it.”
The coaching staff also went over some different tactics for the penalty kill moving forward. After going through video meetings Monday morning, it was clear the Islanders have a plan for the Penguins power play this time around.
But good luck getting that information out of Hamonic.
“I don’t want to share secrets,” Hamonic said. “But there’s some areas that we know internally, we have to improve on. We want to keep that amongst each other right now.”
Game 4 is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum. If the Islanders win, they will tie the series at two games apiece, guaranteeing at least a Game 6 back at the Coliseum on May 11.
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