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New York Islanders

Islanders Pull Off Big Win In Florida To Stay In Playoff Hunt



AP Photo/Jim Rassol

If the New York Islanders are going to make a legitimate last-ditch, desperate push for the playoffs, they’ll need to replicate their performance from Thursday night time and time again. 

With a gritty, full-length and full-team effort that’s become increasingly rare for them over the last few weeks, the Islanders began their three-game road trip by defeating the Florida Panthers 3-2 at Amerant Bank Arena. 

“Tonight was so big playing against a team that is a Stanley Cup contender,” Mathew Barzal told Shannon Hogan and Thomas Hickey of MSG. “We just battled. That was 60 minutes of just pure battle and war. There wasn’t much out there both ways and it was just a grind the whole night. It definitely felt like a playoff game.” 

Trailing by one midway through the second period, Barzal drew the Islanders even as he stood in front of the net to deflect a shot from Noah Dobson for his 23rd goal of the season, setting a new career-high. 

“This is the hockey we want him to play,” Islanders head coach Patrick Roy said of Barzal to reporters in Sunrise. “Barzal, since we put him at center, he’s playing better and better every game. Not just offensively but also defensively. That’s what he wants to do. He wants to be a complete player.” 

Two minutes later, amid a mad scramble in front of Panthers goalie Anthony Stolarz, Jean-Gabriel Pageau cleaned up a loose puck for his 10th goal of the year. Pageau’s goal survived a challenge from Florida and gave the Islanders a lead entering the third period.

Florida had a chance to even the score on the power play while Bo Horvat served a slashing penalty and again when they pulled Stolarz to the bench in the final minutes for an extra attacker. In both instances, Semyon Varlamov stood tall in goal for the Islanders, turning away the 14 shots he faced in the final frame to finish the evening with 26 saves on 28 shots. 

“He was solid from the start to the end,” Roy said. “He made some really good saves. He was solid in our net. That’s a performance that was needed.” 

Varlamov helped the Islanders weather an early onslaught from the Panthers, even after he surrendered a goal to Vladimir Tarasenko that made it 1-0 Florida at 8:13 of the first period. 

The Islanders seemed to have the first tally of the night, but Ryan Pulock’s goal was taken off the board after a video review due to goaltender interference by Kyle MacLean. Nevertheless, Pulock still made sure to put his name on the stat sheet as he hit the back of the net once again. 

Taking a feed from Pagaeu at the right faceoff dot, Pulock sniped a shot just inside the far post to tie the score with a goal that left no room for debate. 

“You score, and your emotions go up a little bit,” Pulock said. “It gets taken away, and they get one. I thought that was a key moment in the game where we got back on it. Pageau made a great play down low, and I was able to get one that counted and get us back in the game.” 

The Panthers jumped back in front at the start of the second period with a goal by Aleksander Barkov but couldn’t do so again later in the game. 

The loss didn’t mean nearly as much to the Panthers as the win did for the Islanders. A true Stanley Cup favorite, Florida still clinched a playoff spot despite not earning a point on Thursday as one of the top teams in the entire NHL.

As for the Islanders, their playoff chances are still slim, but look a lot better following the victory. They were also aided by the results elsewhere around the league, with the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers all losing in regulation. 

The Islanders will conclude their road trip in Philadelphia but must first pay a visit to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night at Amalie Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.




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