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Growing Up

As a team on the edge of playoff contention, the Islanders are not satisfied with just getting wins

Monday, 03.18.2013 / 3:30 PM ET / News
By Travis Betts
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Growing Up
Casey Cizikas scored at 12:55 of the third period Saturday to give the Islanders a 4-3 lead. But the celebration didn't last long. (Photo: Getty Images)

Following the Islanders 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers Saturday to wrap up a three-game road trip, the visitors dressing room at BB&T Center was oddly quiet. No loud music, no high-fives, no big chatter.

Instead, the Islanders were strictly business, showing less the signs of a team that had just won on a clutch third period goal, and more the traits of a squad that felt lucky to escape South Florida with two points.

“We feel pretty good to have earned the points,” Kyle Okposo, who scored the game’s first goal, said. “Obviously we got a couple big wins on the road trip (including Thursday at Tampa Bay), but that third period in Florida wasn’t our best. We’ve got to come in with a different mindset in our next game. We’ve got to find a way to get two points like we did Saturday, but we know that we have to play better.”

The Islanders led 3-0 in the third period against the Panthers, but allowed the home team to even the score with a trifecta of goals in a span of 103 seconds. After the ice tilted in Florida’s favor, the Islanders rallied to stop the bleeding.

“We got in a situation that we didn’t want to be in, but I really liked the emotion and energy on the bench,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “For about 7-8 minutes we just stopped moving our feet. We didn’t dictate the pace, we didn’t engage with anybody, we just sat around and watched. But we found a way after the timeout to gather ourselves and Keith Aucoin’s line gave us a big shift and capitalized on a nice play.”

The line of Aucoin, Casey Cizikas and Colin McDonald stepped up, and Cizikas’ goal with seven minutes left in regulation proved to be the game-winner. Down the stretch, the Islanders returned to what had been working the first 40 minutes, and shut the door on a Panthers’ comeback attempt.

Veteran forward and first year Islander Brad Boyes says there are a lot of lessons the team can take from Saturday’s performance.

“You can look at it a couple ways,” Boyes said. “I think the way we need to look at it is that we didn’t play our best in the third, but we still came back and won. We can’t let that happen again, but I think there’s been a lot of good teaching points this season. This team has grown a lot in the time I’ve been here.”

The Islanders are 5-1-1 in March, and have points in seven of their last eight games. As of Monday, they sit two points behind Carolina for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The team hopes to continue its momentum on an upcoming four-game home stand beginning Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators.

While six teams are within five points one of another between 6th and 11th place, Okposo points out that it’s crucial not to look around at how the competition is faring every night.

“We’re not really focusing on what other teams are doing, but we’re definitely paying attention,” Okposo said. “It’s tough because nobody is playing against teams from the Western Conference, so someone is getting points every night. But we’re not too focused on things out of our control. We just have to worry about beating Ottawa tomorrow and going from there.”

Capuano added that with 20 games left to play, and so many teams battling for the same ticket to the postseason, each tilt has added importance.

“If we win games, it’s going to take care of itself,” Capuano said. “Every game for us now is big. Every period and every shift is important. It’s critical that we maintain our focus and commitment and play every single shift like it’s a Game 7.”

The Islanders next three opponents (Ottawa, Montreal and Pittsburgh) are all teams they are chasing in the standings. With four games in six days at Nassau Coliseum, including a rematch Sunday against the Panthers, the Islanders have an opportunity to make up more ground and break into the top-8 in the East.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 11 6 5 -3 11
K. Okposo 11 2 6 -3 8
F. Nielsen 11 3 3 -3 6
B. Nelson 11 1 4 -5 5
T. Hickey 11 1 4 -5 5
A. Quine 10 1 4 -1 5
S. Prince 11 3 1 -1 4
R. Strome 8 1 3 1 4
N. Leddy 11 1 3 1 4
N. Kulemin 11 1 3 -5 4
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
T. Greiss 5 6 2 .923 2.46
J. Berube 0 0 0 1.000 0.00
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