UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Now is the time for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"We need to apply ourselves and seize the moment," said Dave Andreychuk, who ought to know about such things. Andreychuk is in his 22nd NHL season but never has won a Stanley Cup. "This might not come around again. Young guys think you are going to get another chance at the playoffs again. But you might not have this kind of team again."
The team has now finished first in the Eastern Conference with a dangerous offense and a good defense. That defense has turned spectacular in the first-round series with the New York Islanders.
All three games have been 3-0, with Tampa Bay winning the first and third. Game 4 is Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Andreychuk and his teammates, who won their first-round series with Washington a year ago, then fell in the second round to New Jersey -- which went on to win the Stanley Cup -- have come to understand the effort it takes in the playoffs.
In Game 3 against the Islanders, their passing was crisp, the defensemen rarely were out of position and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was unbeatable, stopping 28 shots.
"We were patient and we had the puck a lot, and our special teams were big," said Martin St. Louis, the NHL's leading scorer who had his first two goals of the series on Monday night. "You can't waste the opportunity. You can't say, 'Oh, we don't need to do that yet.'
"We have to enjoy that, but then get ready for another battle. If we play desperate ... we'll be in good shape."
The Islanders will be in a desperate situation if they don't win Wednesday night. The way this series has gone, they need to score first, then rely on goalie Rick DiPietro, who had a shutout in the second game.
They also must get more from their top forwards, who rarely threatened Khabibulin in Game 3, while Tampa's best forwards were outstanding.
"Certainly, it's a game you learn from and move on to the next game," captain Michael Peca said. "From experience, if you don't come out and get an early goal, the adrenaline tends to wash away, especially when you give up an early goal.
"Wednesday is very critical. We don't want to go back to the other rink at game point."
To avoid that, the Islanders just might need another shutout from DiPietro, who definitely doesn't lack confidence.
"I think it will be a long series, we didn't think either team would sweep," he said. "We realize the task at hand, but I think we are working hard.
"When you lose a game, the puck seems to find a way not to go in. Next time, that will bounce in for you."