ECQF GAME 5 PREVIEW
(7:00 p.m. ET, TV: MSG, VERSUS, TSN | Radio: Bloomberg 1130) The Islanders are in a must-win situation down 3-1 to the Sabres in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals as they travel back to Buffalo for Game 5 at the HSBC Arena.
Being on the brink of elimination is nothing new to the Islanders, who had to win the final four games of the regular season just to reach the playoffs. Now, they're in a similar situation having to earn three in a row against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Sabres.
You'd have to go back to 1987 to find the last time the Islanders came back from a 3-1 deficit to clinch a postseason series. During the 1987 Patrick Division Semifinals, the Islanders fell behind 3-1 to the Washington Capitals before earning three straight wins, including two in Washington. Game 7 of that series came to be known as the Easter Epic after Pat LaFontaine scored in the fourth overtime to seal the 3-2 victory.
The Islanders were put in this year's situation following a controversial 4-2 Game 4 loss to the Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday.
Down 3-2 in the third, the Islanders appeared to score the tying goal with 1:42 remaining when Brendan Witt jammed home a loose puck lying in the crease. Referee Mike Leggo waived off the goal, claiming that Ryan Miller had covered the puck and was pushed into the net along with the puck. The call went to Toronto for review and Leggo's decision was upheld. Only 30 seconds later, Jason Pominville put the game out of reach with the Sabres' fourth goal.
Chris Drury continued his playoff mastery, scoring two goals, including the game-winner in the opening minute of the second period, while on the power play. He leads the Sabres with four goals in the series. Dainius Zubrus added another assist to his total, which has reached five in the playoffs.
For the Islanders, Jason Blake and Mike Sillinger - on the power play - scored. Blake missed half of the second period after being hit from behind by Teppo Numminen. He returned to the game and said he's good to go for Game 5.
Game 4 was the first instance in the series that the team scoring first didn't come out victorious. Blake tallied the opening goal 6:24 into the first period as time just expired on their opening power play.
The Islanders, once again, dominated in the faceoff department, winning 55% of their draws. Sillinger led the way with a 79% rate on draws. The Islanders rank second in the playoffs with a team winning percentage of 54.3.
It was another physical contest in Game 4 for the Islanders, who out-hit the Sabres 25-17. As of Thursday night, Trent Hunter was tops in the playoffs with 24 hits, while Sean Hill was third with 20. Four Islanders also ranked in the top 20 in blocked shots: Hill and Witt (tied for 7th with 11), Tom Poti (tied for 12th with 10) and Marc-Andre Bergeron (tied for 16th with 9).
Chris King and Steve Mears, as always, have the call on Bloomberg Radio 1130, while the tandem of Howie Rose -- working double duty as the Mets' radio announcer -- and Billy Jaffe can be seen tonight on MSG. You can catch John Forslund and Eddie Olczyk on VERSUS, and for those up in Canada watching on TSN, you'll see the duo of Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire.
BELOW ARE CHANNEL LISTINGS FOR MSG ON LONG ISLAND
Islanders - Trent Hunter, 2 goals; Tom Poti, 3 assists; Poti & Ryan Smyth, 3 points; Poti, Richard Zednik, Robitaille, Brendan Witt, 6 PIM
Buffalo - Chris Drury, 4 goals; Dainius Zubrus, 5 assists; Drury & Zubrus, 5 points; Adam Mair, Daniel Briere, Jochen Hecht, Maxim Afinogenov, 4 PIM.
Islanders - Power play: 13.3 percent. Penalty killing: 80.0 percent
Buffalo - Power play: 20.0 percent. Penalty killing: 86.7 percent.
Islanders - Rick DiPietro (1-2, 3.04 GAA, .910 SV%); Wade Dubielewicz (0-1, 4.07, .886)
Buffalo - Ryan Miller (3-1, 2.01, .921)
Islanders - 92 points, 4th place, Atlantic Division
Buffalo - 113 points, 1st place, Northeast Division
Islanders - Jason Blake, 40 goals, 69 points; Tom Poti, 38 assists; Brendan Witt, 131 PIM
Buffalo - Thomas Vanek, 43 goals; Daniel Briere, 63 assists, 95 points; Adam Mair, 128 PIM.
Islanders - Power play: 18.1 percent. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent
Buffalo - Power play: 17.4 percent. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent.
Islanders - Rick DiPietro (32-19-9, 2.58 GAA, .919 SV%); Wade Dubielewicz (4-1-0, 2.06 GAA, .934 SV%)
Buffalo - Ryan Miller (40-16-6, 2.73, .911); Ty Conklin (3-5-2, 3.34, .879)
2006-07 SEASON SERIES:
Buffalo - 3-1-0.
Islanders - 18-17-6 on the road
Buffalo - 28-10-3 at home
34 Wade Dubielewicz
39 Rick DiPietro
3 Tom Poti
6 Sean Hill
8 Bruno Gervais
14 Chris Campoli
32 Brendan Witt
47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
49 Drew Fata
7 Trent Hunter
10 Richard Park
11 Andy Hilbert
15 Jeff Tambellini
18 Mike Sillinger
20 Richard Zednik
25 Viktor Kozlov
27 Randy Robitaille
45 Arron Asham
55 Jason Blake
79 Alexei Yashin
81 Miroslav Satan
94 Ryan Smyth
30 Ryan Miller
35 Ty Conklin
5 Toni Lydman
6 Jaroslav Spacek
10 Henrik Tallinder
27 Teppo Numminen
38 Nathan Paetsch
45 Dmitri Kalinin
51 Brian Campbell
9 Derek Roy
12 Ales Kotalik
15 Dainius Zubrus
19 Tim Connolly
20 Daniel Paille
21 Drew Stafford
22 Adam Mair
23 Chris Drury
26 Thomas Vanek
29 Jason Pominville
48 Daniel Briere
55 Jochen Hecht
61 Maxim Afinogenov
76 Andrew Peters