"They have to realize that if you want to be a playoff team, and you want to be a Stanley Cup contender, it's the teams that grind it out, that play with that desperation in their game to win those battles."
Those were New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano's words after his team had a second consecutive defeat in which the game was lost in the third period. After managing to hang on and defeat the Florida Panthers, 4-3, despite allowing three third-period goals, the Islanders then watched a 3-1 lead against the Ottawa Senators evaporate after allowing four unanswered goals in the final frame.
Two night later, the Montreal Canadiens scored three times in the third, breaking a 2-2 tie and sending the Islanders to a second of three defeats on a four-game homestand.
That's when Capuano, with his team sitting three points out of a playoff spot with 18 games to go after that loss to the Canadiens, gave his team a reality check, reminding them what it takes to win in the NHL.
After shutting out the Panthers to end their homestand, the Islanders headed off to play five of their next six games away from Nassau Coliseum. That road trip couldn't have come at a better time for them.
"That was the dull point of the season where we knew we really had to right the ship a little bit and turn things around," said defenseman Travis Hamonic after practice on Tuesday. "You get on the road and try to do some of the little things right and that's when you play road hockey. It turned the season around for us in a way that we were able to have more success down the stretch."