An uncharacteristic afternoon cost the New York Islanders the chance for a sweep over the Florida Panthers.
If Game 2 was “do-or-die” for the Florida Panthers, I don’t know what Game 3 would be for them. Down 2-0 to the New York Islanders, the Panthers were facing elimination if they dropped a third straight.
Going into this game, the Islanders faced a different look Panthers team with Joel Quenneville making a few chances. The biggest positive change from an Islanders perspective was that defenseman Mike Matheson would be a healthy scratch.
If the Islanders played an error-free game the sweep would certainly be on.
With the thought of lose-and-go-home in Florida’s mind, I figured they’d come out even harder than they did in Game 2. But that wasn’t the case. Florida certainly played hard, but they didn’t have the same push they put forward the previous day.
The Islanders actually found significant space behind the Panthers defense with a number of odd-man rushes. If not for Sergei Bobrovsky, the Panthers would have likely been done and buried in the first half of the first period.
Which fit perfectly into what the Islanders wanted to do going forward in the rest of the game.
With a 0-0 game after 20, the Islanders needed to come out, score first, and manage out the rest of the game. But sloppiness that has dogged every single one of the series so far in the return to play, the Islanders went to the box with a too-many-men on the ice call.
Of the three Panthers goals in the series prior to Game 3 one was on the power play. Another came fractions of second after a Panthers power play came to an end. So while it didn’t count as a power-play goal it technically was. The fifth Isles skater wasn’t yet in the play when the Panthers scored.
So with what was effectively a 50 percent Panthers power play coming into Game 3, it wasn’t surprising (although relatively depressing) when Florida struck first with a power-play goal.
The momentum shifted back in the Islanders favor after they were able to trap the Panthers for what seemed like an eternity in their own end.
The score would have remained 1-0 for Florida if not for the Isles version of the French Connection in
While Pageau scored the goal it was 90 percent of Beauvillier’s doing. Beau was the one to retrieve his own puck and feed Pageau with that incredible cross-ice pass.
Pageau now has three-points in three playoff games for the Isles.
With momentum on the Islanders side going into the final frame of an elimination game, the Isles stumbled metaphorically and almost quite literally out of the blocks.
Just seven seconds into the third period, Semyon Varlamov took perhaps the worst penalty possible after he played the puck just outside of the trapezoid. And of course, the Panthers would convert on the power play to make it 2-1 just 41 seconds into the third period.
Not long after Brian Boyle made it 3-1 with some broken coverage in the Islanders end.
And just like that, the Islanders went from having momentum on their side to being down by two goals.
A lot of criticism will be placed on the Isles power play that went 0/3 on the day, but more criticism should be placed at the feet of some of the team’s top forwards in Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee. Both have been virtually anonymous in the series.
Both have combined for one point and eleven shots over the first three games. I’m probably preaching to the quire when I say that type of offensive production just isn’t good enough.
Winners and Losers
Florida Power Play: 2/5
The Islanders power play has been fairly efficient on the power play through this series, but Florida made it look easy out there with a 40% PP efficiency.
Brian Boyle: 1G, 58 FOW%
It’s what coaches love to see. Depth players coming up clutch to score big goals.
Anthony Beauvillier/Jean-Gabriel Pageau: 1A/1G
There isn’t anything else these two guys can do for the Islanders. They need the rest of the team to step up.
Mather Barzal: 2SOG
Have you seen him recently? This must have been what the Pittsburgh Penguins felt like in 2019 when the Isles shut down Sidney Crosby.
Semyon Varlamov: 1 Bad Penalty
Seven seconds into the third is all it took for Varlamov to effectively sink the Isles game. For the rest of the game Varlamov was solid between the pipes.
Penalty Kill: 60%
Sixty-percent might be enough to pass a test, but a 60% efficiency on the PK wasn’t enough to pass to the next round.