It took one more game than it did last season for the Islanders to get past Round 1 against a top contender, and it may prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Following a loss in Game 4 on Tuesday, the Islanders focused once again on eliminating the Washington Capitals after they won the first three games of the first-round series and got the 4-0 shutout victory to end the first-round matchup.
When the Islanders began preparing for Game 5 tonight, there were a few changes made to the Islanders, which consisted of benching Cal Clutterbuck due to an injury he sustained in Game 4 and scratching Derek Brassard, leaving an opportunity for Ross Johnston and Michael Dal Colle to play tonight after not having much playing time since the start of the postseason.
Entering Game 5, the Islanders were 1 for 19 on power-play opportunities since the Qualifying Round, but after the first 10 minutes of the game, Casey Cizikas drew a hooking penalty on Nic Dowd, allowing Anthony Beauvillier to get his fifth goal and the Islanders’ second power-play goal in the postseason, allowing them to take a 1-0 lead after the first period. In the second period, Beauvillier struck again with another goal that wasn’t easy after his connected with the right pole of the net.
Semyon Varlamov managed to rebound after giving up 2 goals in Game 4 and the game-winning goal in third period on Tuesday by not allowing a single goal on the 21 shots that came his way. With less than 3 minutes left in the game, the Capitals had Braden Holtby enter the bench for a man-up in a desperation attempt. However, the Islanders took full-advantage of the empty net by making a pair of goals, courtesy of Nick Leddy and Josh Bailey, both getting their second goal of the postseason and solidifying the series for the Islanders with a 4-1 first-round victory.
The Islanders will advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second year in a row and will either face the Philadelphia Flyers or the Boston Bruins depending on the result of the first-round matchup between the top-seeded Flyers and 8-seeded Montreal Canadiens. For the Islanders, they will look to be better in the second round this season than they were last season. After sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round last season, New York was swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round, even though Carolina was recently eliminated by Boston in the playoffs for the second year in a row.
What Barry Trotz and the Islanders will do to start the second round against either Philadelphia or Boston will depend on how they approach the start of the next series and how healthy their roster will be.