Islanders on brink of ending 23-year playoff drought
New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano knows he doesn't need to say a lot to motivate his players.
Coming off a grueling double-overtime win in the last game, the Islanders have a chance to accomplish something the franchise hasn't done in 23 years: Win a playoff series.
''I think the guys know exactly how they have to play,'' Capuano said. ''It's a situation where we're not going to say too much as coaches. We're just going to let them play within the team concept, go out and have some fun and try to close them out if we can.''
And unlike last year, when they lost a deciding Game 7 in the first round on the road, they'll be at home for a potential clinching game for the first time since the opening round in 1993 when they host the Florida Panthers in Game 6 on Sunday night (7 p.m. EDT., NBCSN).
''It's all about our fans and the atmosphere that's going to be in that building,'' Capuano said. ''We have to feed off our crowd and that's the big thing.''
The Islanders haven't won a series in the postseason since reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 1993. They beat Washington at home in Game 6 in the first round that year, and then won Game 7 at Pittsburgh in the conference semis before losing in five to Montreal.
Since that year, New York has lost in the first round seven times, including Game 7s at Toronto in 2002 and at Washington a year ago.
''We had a chance last year in Game 7 to finish it but this is the first time we're going back with three wins and have a chance to close it out at home,'' center Frans Nielsen said. ''So hopefully we're going to come out and respond the right way.''
Rookie forward Alan Quine's goal at the 16-minute mark of the second overtime gave the Islanders a 2-1 win just after midnight Friday to put the Panthers on the brink of elimination.
Now, New York will get a chance to knock them out in Game 6 at the Barclays Center, where they were 25-11-5 - including 12-3-3 after the All-Star break.
''The last one is always the hardest one to win,'' defenseman Travis Hamonic said.'' We have an opportunity to do it in our barn, so we have to prepare.''
The Islanders, one win away from handing Florida its fourth first-round exit since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, have the opportunity largely due to the play of goalie Thomas Greiss. He was signed as a backup to Jaroslav Halak in the offseason and the two mostly shared the starts until Halak was injured on March 8 against Pittsburgh. Since then, Greiss has started most of the games and finished the season 23-11-4 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .925 save-percentage while appearing in a career-high 41 games.
In this series, the 30-year-old - who had previously appeared in just one playoff game - has given up 12 goals on 192 shots (2.09 GAA, .938 save-percentage). In the last game, Greiss had a career-high 47 saves and stopped Aleksander Barkov's penalty shot in the first overtime.
''He's a good, solid goaltender,'' Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. ''The kid's been playing real well.''
Capitals at Flyers, Washington leads 3-2 (noon EDT, NBC).
When the Philadelphia Flyers staved off a sweep, coach Dave Hakstol didn't want to speculate on the mental state of the Washington Capitals. He did go as far to say, ''I would imagine if we can push and bring this series back to a Game 6, maybe they may start feeling it a little bit.''
The series is indeed heading to Game 6, but Capitals coach Barry Trotz doesn't believe the past has any effect. Forget about the Rod Langway or Dale Hunter playing years - during the Alex Ovechkin era, Washington has had a two-game series lead five times and lost four of them.
''Everybody talks about, `The past, the past, the past' - the only pressure that we'll have is on ourselves,'' Trotz said. ''We've got to go into Philadelphia and we've got to play really well and get a win there. If we don't accomplish that, we'll go to Game 7.''
Players are not focusing on the past series defeats.
''I don't think this team has any playoff history,'' defenseman Karl Alzner said. ''This is our first playoffs together, so in my opinion, no.''
Stars at Wild, Dallas leads 3-2 (3 p.m. EDT, NBC).
The Wild overcame 3-1 deficits to win the first two playoff series in their franchise history 13 years ago. Now they are trying to pull off a big comeback against the team that left Minnesota before them.
The Stars, who were the North Stars before moving south to Dallas in 1993, didn't lead their potential clincher in Game 5 until two goals in a 28-second span nearly midway through the third period. But Wild captain Mikko Koivu scored the tying goal to force overtime, then redirected Ryan Suter's shot for the winner.
''We were up, they were up and everything happened so quickly,'' Wild forward Mikael Granlund said. ''I'm just really glad we got the win and we get to go back home next game.''
When asked if Minnesota had momentum now, Stars coach Lindy Ruff responded that he loved the way his team competed and skated.
''I think our team played our best game,'' Ruff said. ''We had over 90 attempts (93) and we had the puck most of the night. We made some really big mistakes on goals that we haven't been making.''
Ruff, who has used two goalies all season, went with Antti Niemi after Kari Lehtonen lost Game 3. He wasn't saying if he'd switch back for Game 6.
AP Sports Writers Stephen Whyno in Washington and Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.
Follow Vin Cherwoo at www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP