Barry Trotz and the Islanders can take the “one game at a time” approach as they try to overcome a 3-1 Eastern Conference Final deficit to the Lightning. But at the same time they know their playoff run could be over Thursday night.
“We have one life left, they have two,” Trotz said of the 3-2 series in Tampa’s favor. “You tell me which has more pressure.”
If the Islanders are able to win Game 6 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream), then you can say the pressure will swing towards the Lightning in a Game 7. For now, even after New York’s double overtime win Tuesday, both teams are feeling confident.
“I think you could stand in each team’s court and make a case because that’s what both coaches are doing,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “They’re probably sitting there saying, ‘Hey, we just won in overtime. We’ve got them thinking and the ball’s in our court and let’s just keep pushing.’ Then you’re in our locker room saying, ‘Hey, we’re still up 3-2 and they were a lucky bounce from the game still going or us scoring.’ You can play the tennis match and volley back and forth on what you’re doing to your team, but it’s why we play the games and the players are going to decide it [Thursday] night one way or the other.
“Pressure is what you make of it, so if you want to succumb to it you can, or if you want to thrive in it, you can. You’ve got to make a choice. You’ve got to embrace these moments. You don’t get them that often, so enjoy them and don’t let that pressure get to you and just do your best on Thursday night and see what happens.”
Tampa may have to play without the services of Brayden Point, who missed Game 5, his second absence of the series. Cooper said Thursday Point, who is currently tied for the postseason points (25) lead, will be a game-time decision.
In recent history, conference final close-out games aren’t a strong suit for the Lightning. Since 2015, Tampa is 0-5 when they have a chance to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final. They would really like to end that drought some time in the next three days.
“We lost a game in overtime that we didn’t mind the way we played,” Cooper said. “We keep doing that, we’re going to be OK. But yeah, adversity hits different ways. This is just another one. This year, I’m really at peace with the way this team is playing. They’ve got this quiet calm about them and they’ll be all ready.”
No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 6 New York Islanders (TB leads 3-2)
Lightning 8, Islanders 2. (recap)
Lightning 2, Islanders 1 (recap)
Islanders 5, Lightning 3 (recap)
Lightning 4, Islanders 1 (recap)
Islanders 2, Lightning 1 [OT] (recap)
Game 6: Thursday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
*Game 7: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC