PITTSBURGH – It was not a joke, but it could have felt like it.
The islanders have dominated the penguins well enough to earn a 3-0 lead in the first-round playoff series of the best of seven games, an opportunity to secure the sweep with a victory in Game 4 on Tuesday night. But both parties understand that the series has not ended and that sometimes getting the fourth victory can be the hardest part.
So there was the Penguin captain, Sidney Crosby, who got zero points and less than 4 points in three games, and mentioned the nameless Monday afternoon.
"It's not the position you want to be in," Crosby said of being down 3-0, "but with that said, I'd love to be part of a team that comes back from that." We think it starts with just winning a game. "
It would begin with winning only one game, as it has done on all four occasions in league history. One of the teams that did this was the 1975 islanders, who returned 3-0 against none other than the penguins to win their quarterfinal match. Penguins of the current crop faced two 3-0 holes and lost both: the final of the 2013 conference against the Bruins in one sweep and a first round series of 2010 against the Flyers in six games.
A comeback like this would be a great advantage for Crosby & Co., who already has three Stanley Cups in the last decade, including consecutive victories in 2016 and 2017. That pedigree and his great talent are part of what has kept the islanders on alert That, and the fact that this group of islanders is a business. They are as calm as they could be, but they know that giving penguins a breath of life would be a mistake.
"I have to hope for the best," said center Brock Nelson. "Trying to close a team, a lot of high-level talent, pride and a team that has won two of the last three [Stanley Cups]. They know the environment and it will be difficult for us here. The crowd against us.
"As I said, trying to finish your season is going to be difficult."
What the islanders have done is take the penguins' life with a strict defense, a timely goal and an opportunistic offensive. At the end of Game 2 on Long Island, the Penguins showed their frustration with the physicality after the whistle that led them nowhere. In Game 3, the Pens scored the first goal and then showed very little signs of life, as the Islanders got four without an answer.
It makes this game 4 an interesting confrontation because the penguins seemed not to want to get on a plane and return to New York for game 5, which would be Thursday night. But Crosby has motivated the teams before leaving the crisis, but never up to this point. He said he "did not want to go there" when he was asked what it takes to get the fourth victory in a series, as if he were going to reveal some state secret. But he continued to show confidence in his group, which had more than its fair share of ups and downs throughout the season.
"Things can change pretty quickly," said Crosby, "that's why we believe that if we enter with the right mindset [Tuesday], we can do it ".
Maybe in private, the islanders would make fun of that statement. Pittsburgh has shown little to say that something will change in their favor. But the islanders certainly do not take anything for granted, knowing that a victory could change the tenor of the series.
"We have approached each game as individual games," said coach Barry Trotz. "We have to win another game, either [Tuesday] Or the next day or the next day, whatever. "
That narrow focus is exactly what has brought the islanders so far, and what they hope to gain a fourth victory to avoid becoming a footnote to another historic achievement for Crosby.
"They have a large group in that room, there is a lot of talent. They've been in great games before, all that, "said Trotz." We'll have our hands full, since we have all the games. "