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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.

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HOME
AWAY
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 53 31 16 6 143 118 68
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 TBL 52 29 19 4 138 123 62
5 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
6 BOS 53 28 19 6 151 137 62
7 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
8 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
9 NJD 54 26 21 7 120 122 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
14 BUF 54 21 27 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
K. Okposo 49 15 26 -7 41
J. Tavares 48 19 21 -4 40
F. Nielsen 51 15 18 0 33
B. Nelson 51 20 11 1 31
M. Grabovski 51 9 15 2 24
J. Bailey 50 9 15 5 24
N. Leddy 51 3 20 -8 23
A. Lee 51 7 15 1 22
R. Strome 40 5 14 -6 19
C. Clutterbuck 50 11 4 6 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 12 11 4 .917 2.28
T. Greiss 14 6 2 .929 2.26
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