Jean-Gabriel Pageau is expected to play for the New York Islanders when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday.
The center “tweaked something,” according to Islanders coach Barry Trotz, during a 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay in Game 2 on Tuesday and did not play the final 13:32. He leads New York in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 14 games.
“It’d be a surprise if he’s not playing tonight,” Trotz said.
A crowd of 12,978 is expected for Game 3, which would be the largest at Nassau Coliseum this season. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said it’s a challenge his team accepts wholeheartedly.
“In the end, it’s just noise and that’s how you have to treat it,” Cooper said. “Trust your process, trust your plan. You’ve been in these spots before. The ice is still same size, and you have to just go about your business.
“What I think we got robbed of last year was having fans, and whether it was home or road, this is why you play. You compete, you battle, but you’re entertaining. I think a hockey game, regardless of where it’s played, when it’s in front of a packed building, there’s no other sport like it, and the environment is sick. We’re embracing whatever building we play in and we’re thankful fans are in it because last year, we didn’t have that, so we’re excited about it.”
Teams that take a 2-1 lead are 89-25 (.781) winning a best-of-7 NHL semifinal series. The Islanders lost Game 3 at home in each of the first two rounds, against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins, but responded each time with three consecutive wins. The Lightning lost Game 3 at home in each of the first two rounds, against the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes.
Here are 3 keys for Game 3:
1. Stay out of the box
The Islanders killed four of five Lightning power plays in Game 2, but they know they can’t take that many trips to the penalty box against the top power play in the NHL among teams still playing this postseason (39.5 percent). New York gave Tampa Bay two power plays during its 2-1 win in Game 1.
“We rely on our 5-on-5 game,” Trotz said. “We know that their power play is hitting at ungodly numbers, so if we’re going to win this series we need to stay out of the penalty box. They’re taking some liberties between whistles, all those things, a lot of scrums, we’ve got to stay out of all of that. Whistle to whistle we’re going to play hard 5-on-5 and we’ll walk away from all that. The most important thing is trying to win this series and doing what it takes to win this series, so we’re not going to get too involved in trying to play 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 or make it a special teams event. We want to play them straight up 5-on-5, and our team is disciplined enough to do that.”
2. First goal for Lightning
The Lightning said they have a good idea of what to expect after playing in front of energized crowds at Florida and Carolina, but scoring the first goal certainly would help their chances and at least temporarily quiet things.
“I wouldn’t say it’s more important because of the environment, it’s just always important to score first, get more confident defensively, offensively,” defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said. “We’re trying to do that every game, have a good start. Score a couple of goals and play with confidence.”
3. Contain Kucherov
Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov was a force in Game 2 with three assists to give him an NHL-best 22 points (five goals, 17 assists). Kucherov has scored 10 points (two goals, eight assists) during a five-game point streak and has scored at least one point in 11 of Tampa Bay’s 13 playoff games.
“He’s an elite player,” Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “It’s a challenge, but I think just take away his time, take away his space, play hard on him and try to not let him have the puck. When he does, be quick to close and not give that time because he’ll make a play through you or a shot, so we have to do a good job of trying to limit him.”
Lightning projected lineup
Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn — Anthony Cirelli — Steven Stamkos
Barclay Goodrow — Yanni Gourde — Blake Coleman
Ross Colton — Tyler Johnson — Pat Maroon
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev — David Savard
Scratched: Alex Barre-Boulet, Mathieu Joseph, Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh, Gemel Smith, Mitchell Stephens, Daniel Walcott, Fredrik Claesson, Cal Foote, Luke Schenn, Ben Thomas, Christopher Gibson, Spencer Martin
Islanders projected lineup
Leo Komarov — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Kyle Palmieri — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Travis Zajac
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy — Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene — Noah Dobson
Scratched: Cole Bardreau, Kieffer Bellows, Austin Czarnik, Anatoli Golyshev, Simon Holmstrom, Ross Johnston, Otto Koivula, Dmytro Timashov, Oliver Wahlstrom, Sebastian Aho, Samuel Bolduc, Braydon Coburn, Thomas Hickey, Grant Hutton, Bode Wilde, Ken Appleby, Cory Schneider
Injured: Michael Dal Colle (undisclosed)
Cirelli is expected to play after being tackled by Zajac at the end of Game 2.