The rematch is on.
The big prize in the semifinal playoff series between the Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning is a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, but for New York, it's a shot at revenge when the series kicks off Sunday afternoon in Tampa.
The Lightning dispatched the Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference final during last year's run to their Stanley Cup championship.
"We feel like we still have some unfinished business," Islanders forward Josh Bailey said.
The Lightning -- who went into the playoffs as the third seed in the Central Division -- knocked off the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes to reach this point. The Islanders, the fourth seed in the East Division, upset both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins.
While this is the fifth time in seven years that Tampa Bay has reached the third round, this is the first time the Islanders have gone this far in consecutive seasons since falling to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final in 1984.
"Coming into this season, we expected to be back here," Islanders forward Matt Martin said. "It doesn't always work out that way, because there's a lot of good teams in this league, but as much as everyone has made us underdogs and thought maybe last year was fluky, in our minds we always thought from the beginning that we're going to have another shot at this. And now, with four teams left, our job is to go out there and finish the job."
Knocking off the Lightning will be a tall order. Tampa Bay, which benefited from the return of forward Nikita Kucherov after he missed the entire regular season following hip surgery, has shown off its talent level with a power play that has clicked at 41.7 percent in the playoffs.
‘We will get a shot to go against the champs again," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "That's a good hockey team right now and a very dangerous power play, obviously. ... They've got a few lines that can hurt you and their Vezina-type goaltender [Andrei Vasilevskiy]. Their defense is extremely deep and their forwards are extremely deep. This will be a huge challenge for us, but we'll try to dissect it and see what we can do."
While Kucherov is leading the Lightning with 18 points, including 13 on the power play, the high-end offensive attack is extremely deep, with captain Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Alex Killorn and Victor Hedman all averaging at least a point per game in the playoffs. Plus, they are near the best in the league defensively.
"In the playoffs it's obviously a different season and it has to be a different effort," Vasilevskiy said. "I think last year and this year so far we've been doing that pretty consistent. We'll have to keep up the same way. It takes everybody to win a playoff game. It can't be just one or two guys on the team. All the guys they have to play, they have to give the best effort every night."
This marks the third time in four years that Tampa Bay has faced a Trotz-coached team in the semifinals. Trotz coached the Washington Capitals when they beat the Lightning en route to their 2018 Cup victory. So, even though these teams didn't meet during the regular season, there is plenty of familiarity.
"Whether we played each other last week or last month or three months ago, it doesn't really matter," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We know what to expect from them and they know what to expect from us."
--Field Level Media