The Islanders are feeling pretty good about themselves and their chances of beating the Penguins in the first round after Friday night's impressive win.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The team without the home advantage in a seven-game series can swing some bit of an edge in its direction if it can earn a split in the first two games the road.
That's part math, part sports lore and a whole lot of something to talk about, according to the New York Islanders, who did just that by winning Game 2 against the Penguins Friday at Consol Energy Center.
That tied the teams' Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at one win apiece going into Game 3 today at Nassau Coliseum.
"I don't really believe in that," winger Colin McDonald said Saturday after a well-attended optional Islanders practice.
"I can understand the logic behind it. When you start the series, you don't really talk about it, but they said if we can get a split we'd be happy with that. But you just never know. There's so much extra energy that goes into every game.
"I don't think we look into those scenarios too much."
It's not that New York is casting aside its comeback, 4-3 win Friday.
"We came back, and that shows how good a team we are," defenseman Mark Streit said. "We didn't get down. We stuck with our game plan and played well, got a lot of pucks at the net and put a lot of pressure on their [defense]. It paid off."
McDonald, who had a goal Friday, doesn't think it was a matter of catching the Penguins -- who won Game 1, 5-0 -- off-guard.
"I don't think they should be surprised by that," he said of the Islanders win. "The last two months we've been playing pretty darned well. We're here for a reason."
Games 3 and 4 are on Long Island. If the top-seeded Penguins split, and certainly if they win both, does that negate the good from the No. 8 Islanders' win Friday?
"I don't think there's a right way to win a series, or a pattern or whatever you want to call it," Streit said. "Every series is different. You see it in basketball. You see it in baseball.
"But every game is really important, and, if you have a chance to win a game, you'd better grab it and take advantage of the opportunity. We had the opportunity [Friday] night. We took advantage of it.
"Winning one game in Pittsburgh is huge for us, but we have to win at home to make that road win more valuable."
The Penguins had a special moment Friday when center Sidney Crosby returned from a broken jaw after missing more than a month. The reception by the home crowd was deafening.
Crosby scored two of the Penguins' first three goals, but New York withstood that emotional high, outplayed the Penguins and came back to win.
Today, it's the Islanders' turn to have a love-fest with their fans.
Their previous home playoff game was April 18, 2007, a 4-2 loss to Buffalo in Game 4 of a five-game opening-series loss.
"It's been a while," New York coach Jack Capuano said. "The fan base has waited. It's a great fan base that we have here. They're very passionate and loyal fans."
Saturday, some 24 hours before game time, orange rally towels emblazoned with "Believe" draped the seats at Nassau Coliseum, waiting for the fans and what could be a loud reception for the Islanders.
"It was a great atmosphere in Pittsburgh, too," Streit pointed out. "You've got to love the road games in the playoffs -- the atmosphere, the intensity. It's great. But, for us, playing at home, the fans haven't seen us in the playoffs for a while.
"Everybody's going to be really excited, and it's going to be a great atmosphere. It's so cool to come back and for us, for the fans, just for the franchise to play that game [today]."
It will come less than 48 hours after their Game 2 win, but that will be fading from memory.
"It's one win," Streit said. "It's great for the confidence.
"But it's 1-1, so it's all about [today] right now."