New York Islanders take a huge 2-0 lead in their series against the Florida Panthers.
Game two was must-win for the New York Islanders. Taking the second game of their best-of-five series wasn’t going to win them the series right there, but it’s a psychologically important step in doing so.
Florida Panthers forward Mike Hoffman knew that when he spoke to media members in the lead up to Game 2. Hoffman shared that his team will play as hard as they can to level the series in a do-or-die game.
A full effort was going to be necessary from the second the puck was dropped to the second the final whistle blew.
The Islanders clearly didn’t receive their morning wakeup call from the hotel today. While the team was there physically, they were not there mentally.
Every game in the playoffs is ‘must-win’, but it’s clear that the Florida Panthers came into the game more desperate for the win. From the drop of the puck, the Isles were on the back foot and had a hard time imposing themselves on the game.
Not even a four-minute double-minor courtesy of Mike Matheson would be enough to get the Islanders back in the game. They had a hard time gaining the offensive zone, they gave up the puck when they finally did, and then just over halfway through the four-minute power play Anthony Beauvillier went to the box for hooking losing that advantage.
On that Panthers power play, Mike Hoffman fired a shot on a screened Varlamov to make it 1-0.
Thankfully, the fourth line of Cizikas, Clutterbuck, and Martin was there to drag their team back into the game after a well-executed shift in the Panthers zone.
The energy paid off and the Isles were on the board thanks to a Mario Lemieux-level play by Tom Kuhhackl who made this incredibly pretty drop pass to Matt Martin to start the scoring for the blue and orange.
After dragging the Islanders back into the game it was only fitting that a member of the fourth line would put the Islanders on the scoresheet.
With the way the game started, you knew that the Panthers wouldn’t go away anytime soon. Unfortunately, the Islanders (specifically Brock Nelson) weren’t disciplined enough in the second and it allowed the Panthers to get some momentum with a power-play goal after a nice screen by Jonathan Huberdeau and an even better shot by Aleksander Barkov.
With that being said, the Islanders knew how crucial a win in game two is to progress. Going up 2-0 effectively seals the deal on this best-of-five series.
The power play that let them down so much during the regular season was a weapon in Game 1 with a 33% percent efficiency. With their second try in the game, Ryan Pulock unleashed a trademark slapshot through Sergei Bobrovsky to make it 2-2.
After equalizing the game at two, the Islanders seemed to wake up and press the Panthers and keep them in their defensive zone. Less than three minutes after Ryan Pulock made it 2-2, Jordan Eberle (and the first line sprung to life) to put the Islanders into the lead.
The Islanders top-line was anonymous in Game 1 and was anonymous yet again prior to this goal in Game 2. It’s fine to win one game on the back of your depth offense, to win a series the Islanders need their top line to be present and produce.
With a 3-2 lead going into the third, we all knew that the Panthers would come out as they did in the first period. Going 2-0 down in a best-of-five is not something teams come back from. They just had to play their game and the opportunities would come.
Yet again, it was the power play that connected to double the Islanders lead at 4-2 thanks to Anthony Beauvillier getting the puck towards the net and Jordan Eberle using every tool at his disposal (like his shins) to get a goal.
With that two-goal cushion, the Islanders, much like in game one. Managed the rest of the time to leave with a 4-2 win and go 2-0 up in their series that will resume at the same time tomorrow.
Winners and Losers
Jordan Eberle: 2G, 5SOG
Playoff Jordan Eberle is an absolute beast. In ten playoff games with the Islanders, Eberle has eleven points now. Hopefully, that continues the further the Islanders progress in the postseason.
Ryan Pulock: 1G, 1A, 2SOG
There isn’t anything better than when Ryan Pulock can rip a slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle for a power-play goal like he did today.
Tom Kuhnhackl: 1A
This is why Barry Trotz included Tom Kuhnhackl in the lineup. He may not be the guy for the Islanders, but when you need offense deep in the lineup Kuhnhackl is clearly a good option for them.
Mike Matheson: -2, 6PIM
Something needs to be said to Mike Matheson. He’s absolutely careless with his stick and will eventually take out somebody’s eye.
Eric Haula: 3 hits, 63 FOW%
He was one of the key players coming back to the Panthers in the Vincent Torochek trade. Today, Haula did very little to help his team even the series at 1-1.
Sergei Bobrovsky: 30 stops, 0.882 SV%
This wasn’t a vintage performance for Bobrovsky. He was there to bail out his team at the start of the game, but his effectiveness wore off as the game progressed.