After dropping Game 1 in what was decided by a lone goal, the Florida Panthers were back looking to even the series at a game apiece.
With their backs against the wall, the Florida Panthers were fired up, as well as angry, coming into Game 2. They knew very well that going down two games to none would put them out of contention, facing an inevitable elimination. That’s why they came storming out of the gates once the puck dropped, forcing the Isles’ hand.
The Panthers got off to the dream start they wanted, pinning the Islanders deep in their end and making Semyon Varlamov work early – something they didn’t do enough of last game. Brian Boyle’s third line got the wheels going quickly, causing all sorts of problems for the Isles to deal with. Soon after, Aleksander Barkov’s unit jumped in on the action, swarming every Isle in sight who touched the puck.
Unfortunately, all of Florida’s hard work was undone after Mike Matheson took an ill-advised penalty when he caught Brock Nelson up high carelessly. To make matters worse, Matheson was called on a double-minor, handing the Isles a four-minute power play that would present them the best opportunity in the opening frame to open up the scoring first.
The Panthers’ PK unit did such a great job of killing off Matheson’s penalty that they drew a penalty of their own, turning the shorthanded play into even-strength action. Colton Sceviour’s relentless hard work is what led to him being taken down, eliminating Matheson’s penalty entirely.
After Matheson got out of the box and what was left of the Panthers’ power play expired, Mike Hoffman ripped a shot through Varlamov’s five-hole to give the Cats their first lead of the series. The goal was the spark that Florida desperately needed to be in front of the eight ball early on.
The Islanders, as stubborn and stingy as they are, refused to back down and pressed hard to find an equalizer. They pushed Florida into a corner just minutes after Hoffman’s opener, but Sergei Bobrovsky stood tall, making back-to-back kick saves to keep the Panthers out in front.
Once again, Matheson took another negligent penalty after tripping Josh Bailey to send the Isles to their second man advantage. Luckily for him and the team, the Panthers’ PK unit was up to the task and confidently killed his penalty to keep the Cats in the lead. After twenty solid minutes of play, the Panthers were headed to the dressing room with their rightful, one-goal advantage.
All the good that came in the first was undone in the second. Florida’s steady play quickly reverted back to its usual self when the sloppiness and careless mistakes took form. Bobrovsky was forced to stand on his head multiple times, but eventually, the Isles broke the deadlock.
Off a nifty drop-pass from Tom Kühnhackl, Matt Martin snapped a shot through Bobrovsky to level the game at one. From there, the Isles continued pouring pressure, hopeful that it would lead to a second goal. However, it didn’t, and it was captain Aleksander Barkov who had other plans.
After drawing a hooking penalty on his own, Barkov took advantage of the power play that he was responsible for creating, snapping a shot over Varlamov to regain Florida’s lead.
The Panthers’ lead didn’t last long as Hoffman was sent to the box for holding Jordan Eberle, sending the Isles to their third power play of the game. And this time, they wasted no time, as Ryan Pulock fired a shot underneath Bobrovsky to level the game at two.
Things went from bad to worse for Florida as the Islanders netted yet again, this time coming from Eberle, who faked out Brady Keeper and ripped a shot short-side to give the Islanders their first lead of the game.
The Cats came close to tying the game when Hoffman wired a shot off the goal post, but it stayed out. More undisciplined action resurfaced for Florida as Jonathan Huberdeau negated the power play that he originally drew after he carelessly committed a slash. After a few scraps broke out shortly after, the Cats would head straight down to the locker room down by a goal.
Nothing changed in the third other than New York tacking on another goal to extend their lead by two. Eberle redirected Anthony Beauvillier’s shot to register his second of the afternoon, giving the Islanders a much-needed cushion.
The Isles had no problem closing out the game in comfortable, Barry Trotz-like fashion, going on to win by a score of 4-2. The Islanders have now taken a two-to-nothing series lead, with a chance to sweep the Cats tomorrow at 12 P.M.
Overall, you can’t expect to win games based on one good period of play and undisciplined hockey. Florida could’ve won this afternoon had they kept their foot on the gas pedal and stayed out of the box (gave NYI 7 power plays!). Ideally, the Panthers got in their own way today, and continuously remain their own worst nightmare.
Your Florida Panthers are back in action tomorrow at 12 P.M. to take on the New York Islanders in Game 3 of the play-in series. Already down two games, the Panthers are facing an uphill battle as they look to prevent the Islanders from sweeping them.