Islanders look to finish off second straight 1st round sweep

The New York Islanders won just one playoff series in a 25-year stretch before 2019. Now, they have a chance to get a first-round sweep for the second straight year.

However, they know it won’t be easy to finish off the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night (NBCSN, 8 p.m. EDT)

“There’s no tougher game than a game to clinch a series, and it’s going to be no different in Game 4,” New York captain Anders Lee said. “It’s going to be a tough game. … We still got a lot of work to do to make this right.”

The Islanders pushed the Capitals to the brink of elimination when Mathew Barzal scored in overtime of Game 3 on Sunday for 2-1 victory. Now they expect Washington to come out with even more desperation.

“Trying to close a team out and end their season is one of the toughest things,” center Brock Nelson said. “They’re going to come hard. We have to raise our level to finish the job. Obviously, we got ourselves in a good spot, but the work isn’t done yet.”

Last year, the Islanders swept Pittsburgh in the first round before being swept by Carolina in the conference semifinals.

The Islanders are now in this position again because their tenacious defense and stellar goaltending by Semyon Varlamov hasn’t given up any goals after the second period. On the flip side, New York scored three in the third in Game 1, two in Game 2, and then the overtime winner in Game 3.

The Vegas Golden Knights can also advance to the conference semifinals when they face the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 (NBCSN, 10:30 p.m.), and the Philadelphia Flyers can push the Montreal Canadiens to the brink in Game 4 of that series (NBCSN, 3 p.m.). The Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars are tied going into their Game 5 (NBCSN, 5:30 p.m.).

The Capitals have struggled to get wins in the restart after the season was paused for the coronavirus epidemicn. They went 1-1-1 in preliminary round robin to fall to No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and have lost the first three of this series.

Now, they will be looking to avoid a first-round exit for the second straight year after winning the Stanley Cup in 2018.

“I know we have our backs against the wall,” Washington center Lars Eller said. “All we need to do is win one. We only need to focus on winning then next one, that’s it, and and I have no doubt in my mind that we can do that.”

Capitals coach Todd Rierden liked how his team was playing in the last game and wants the focus to be on simply keeping it up and trying to build some momentum.

“The first thing is, I have to give credit to the Islanders,” Rierden said. “They’ve done a good job and they deserve to be ahead 3-0 in this series. … Now it is all about the next day, the next game and the next play and taking it shift by shift and creating that belief that I started to see a little bit of at the end of Game 3 as we moved along.”

ANOTHER CHANCE TO ADVANCE

The Golden Knights will try again to close out the Blackhawks after Corey Crawford had 48 saves to help Chicago avoid a sweep with a 3-1 victory on Sunday night.

The Blackhawks will be looking to keep up their stingy defensive effort as they’ve allowed on three goals the last two games to a Vegas team that had totaled 22 over its first five postseason games.

LOW-SCORING

The Flyers have the lead in their series after Jake Voracek scored in the first period and Carter Hart got his first career playoff shutout on Sunday.

Scoring has largely been scarce in this series — despite Montreal’s 5-0 win in Game 2. Philadelphia won 2-1 in Game 1.

LOOKING FOR THE EDGE

The Stars and Flames have alternated wins in their series, with Dallas’ 5-4 overtime victory in Game 4 on Sunday evening things at two games apiece. The scores have been tight with Calgary holding a 13-12 edge.

Cam Talbot had 57 saves in the last game, and has stopped 147 of 159 shots in this series. Dallas’ Anton Khudobin is 1-2 with a 2.85 goals-against average.

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Follow Vin Cherwoo at www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP

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More AP NHL: www.apnews.com/NHL and www.twitter.com/AP_Sports

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