Can the NY Islanders come back? History says yes; recent history says no

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders - Game Four
Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders - Game Four / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

After a deflating 5-2 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes at UBS Arena on Sunday afternoon, the Islanders will aim to avoid elimination and send the series back to Long Island on Tuesday night in Raleigh. The Isles were always going to have to win one road game this series and now will have to win two at PNC Arena and three straight games overall to advance to the second round.

Can they do it? History proves they can, but it's been a long time since an Islanders team has faced elimination down two games and ended up winning a playoff series - 36 years.


The Islanders first qualified for the playoffs in 1975 and famously upset the New York Rangers on JP Parise's game-winning goal 11 seconds into OT in the preliminary round. They next went on to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Quarterfinals, where they dropped the first three games of the series. Undeterred, Al Arbour's team won the next four games, including a 1-0 shutout win in Pittsburgh in Game 7. Ed Westfall had the game's only goal at 14:42 of the third period, and Glenn 'Chic' Resch made 30 saves.

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins
New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins / George Gojkovich/GettyImages

The story doesn't end there. In the next round, the Isles once again fell down 3-0 in the series, this time to the Philadelphia Flyers, only to once again win the next three and force a Game 7. This time, however, the eventual Stanley Cup champions prevailed with a 4-1 win on home ice.


In 1985, the Islanders became the first team in NHL history to come back from down 0-2 in a best-of-five playoff series. The Caps won the first two games in DC, both in OT to send the Islanders back to Long Island on the brink of an early playoff exit. However, the Islanders took GM3 with a 2-1 win and followed that up with a a 6-4 victory to force the deciding GM5.

In GM5, Anders Kallur and Brent Sutter scored in the second period to grab a 2-0 lead and Billy Smith had the last great playoff performance of his career, stopping 39 of 40 shots in the 2-1 win.


The Islanders - Washington Capitals Patrick Division semifinal finished with Pat LaFontaine's goal to end the Easter Epic, but that was the culmination of an epic comeback in the series for the Islanders.

After earning a split in Washington, the Islanders dropped both games at the Nassau Coliseum and faced elimination in DC come Game 5. Terry Simpson's sent the series back to Long Island with a 4-2 win and then won again, 5-4, on home ice to set the stage for the epic marathon game two nights (and one early morning) later.

Since the Easter Epic

Since 1987, the Islanders are 7-15 in elimination games and have won only two series where they faced elimination. One was the 1993 series, where they stunned the two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins on David Volek's OT goal in GM7 and the other was the 2020 series against the Philadelphia Flyers, in which the Isles had a 3-1 lead in the series, lost back-to-back OT games that forced Game 7 before Thomas Greiss shutout the Flyers in a 4-0 win that sent them to their first Eastern Conference Final since 1993.

  • 1988 vs. NJD: Lost GM6
  • 1990 vs. NYR: Lost GM5
  • 1993 vs. PIT: Won GM6, Won GM7
  • 1993 vs MTL: Won GM4, Lost GM5
  • 1994: vs NYR: Lost GM4
  • 2002 vs. TOR: Won GM6, Lost GM7
  • 2003 vs. OTT: Lost GM5
  • 2004 vs. TB: Lost GM5
  • 2007 vs. BUF: Lost GM5
  • 2013 vs. PIT: Lost GM6
  • 2015 vs. WSH: Won GM6, Lost GM7
  • 2016 vs. TB: Lost GM5
  • 2019 vs. CAR: Lost GM4
  • 2020 vs. PHI: Won GM7
  • 2020 vs. TB: Won GM5, Lost GM6
  • 2021 vs. TB: Won GM6, Lost GM7

Things change quick in playoff series and each game is very much its own entity. The same way we were stunned to see how Sunday's game shaped up, the Isles could go into Carolina, quite the home crowd and bring things back to Long Island with a chance to force a deciding GM7. If they do, it will be the first time, in a vert long time, that they've been able to pull off a series comeback.