The New York Islanders and Vegas Golden Knights will try again to close out their respective playoff series and advance to the conference finals.
The Islanders will be looking to bounce back from a 4-3 overtime loss to Philadelphia that cut their series lead to 3-2 when they face the Flyers in Game 6 (7p.m. EDT, NBCSN) on Thursday night in Toronto.
New York fell behind 3-1 before rallying with two goals 1:33 apart late in the third period to tie it. In Game 2, the Flyers led 3-0 in the first before New York rallied and tied it with two goals in the third. Philadelphia won that in overtime as well.
“We got to work on our starts, getting out of the gates hot,” Islanders forward Casey Cizikas said. “But I think the way we responded the way we finished the game coming back in the third showed the character in our room and our leaders stepped up. We feel good today and we’re confident going into tomorrow.”
Vegas also had a chance to eliminate Vancouver in Game 5 of that series, but the Canucks held on for a 2-1 win. Now, the Golden Knights will try to reach the conference finals for the second time in the franchise’s three-year history in Game 6 (9:30 p.m., NBCSN) in Edmonton, Alberta.
“We just have to look at some video,” Vegas’ Shea Theodore said. “There were some mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, and those can’t happen this time of year. We just kind of have to refocus and get ready for the next one.”
In the previous two playoff rounds, the Islanders failed to close out series on the first try — before coming back to eliminate Florida in Game 4 and then Washington in Game 5.
’We got to get them next game obviously,” forward Josh Bailey said. “We would have liked to have closed it out (in Game 5), but that wasn’t the case. It’s a long playoffs, you’re going to have to deal with adversity and find a way to play through it. We’ll come back and make sure we’re ready to go next game.”
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault called the last two games — including his team’s 3-2 loss in Game 4 — their best of the postseason before praising the Islanders.
“There’s no doubt this is a real challenging series,” Vigneault said. There’s just no weaknesses there. Throughout the lineup from line one to line four … it’s a real solid team from their forward group to (defense) group, both their goaltenders. You have to play your best and I really like the way we’ve trended the last two games That makes me optimistic we can continue on that rise up.”
If Philadelphia can win the last two games of the series, it will advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2012, when the Flyers lost to New Jersey.
“We’re still down in the series and we have a lot of work to do,” said Scott Laughton, who got the overtime winner in Game 5.
A win would put New York in the conference finals for the first time since 1993.
“We’re going to have to bring our best because it’s getting tighter and tighter,” forward Jordan Eberle said. “And obviously we want to close it out.”
The Islanders hope to have Mathew Barzal back in the lineup after he was hit in the face by Claude Giroux’s stick late in the third Tuesday and didn’t return to the game. New York coach Barry Trotz said he had moderate concern about the star center’s status, adding that “everything’s trending in the right direction.”
Vigneault did not have an update on Sean Couturier’s condition after the forward left the last game after a collision with Barzal in the second period.
The Canucks could be without starting goalie Jacob Markstrom again as they try to extend their series. Thatcher Demko made 42 saves in the Game 5 win, his first career playoff start, after Markstrom was deemed unfit to play.
“It’s a unique circumstance,” the 24-year-old Demko said. “This is what I’ve wanted to be a part of since I was a kid, so being able to get this opportunity is super special. I want to just keep helping any way I can.”
Elias Pettersson, who had the tiebreaking goal in the third period, now has seven goals and 11 assists in his last 14 games.