New York Islanders Defeat Florida Panthers in Double Overtime to Advance to the Second Round
(New York Islanders Defeat Florida Panthers) – The Florida Panthers were oh so close to sending this series to a decisive game 7. Sunday night in Long Island, the Panthers led the hometown Islanders 1-0 with just under a minute to go in regulation when goaltender Roberto Luongo made a sprawling save and laid on his stomach, thinking the puck was underneath him. Everyone seemed to think the same thing. Everyone except for John Tavares, that is. The Islanders’ captain found the puck just inches to Luongo’s right side and deposited it into the net with just 53 seconds remaining to tie the game at 1.
Regulation would not be enough to decide a winner in this one, nor was a period of overtime. For the second time in a row, the game was decided in the second overtime period. Once again, it was the Islanders’ captain who played the part of hero. Tavares’ game winner was the deciding goal of both the game and the series, sending the Islanders through to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Thomas Greiss added 41 saves to help keep the Isles in the game, until Tavares could save the day.
The Islanders won this series 4-2, but it was back and forth the whole time with the winner rotating each game until New York won games 5 and 6, both in double overtime. The deciding factor in this series was the extra hockey that was played and won by the Islanders as they won all three overtime contests. Florida will regret blowing their 1-0 lead on Sunday and a 3-1 lead in game 3 before losing in overtime.
Goaltender Thomas Greiss’ 41 save performance in game 6 was not his only such highlight in this series, as he recorded 40 or more saves three times and finished with a 1.79 GAA and .944 save percentage. In addition to the goaltending, the special teams played a big part in this series, as they so often do this time of year. The Islanders’ power play converted at a rate of 25% for the series and the penalty kill was equally effective with an 86.7% success rate.
What’s Next for the Islanders and Panthers?
Next up for the Isles is a date with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in 5 games. As the only wild card team remaining, the Islanders will never have the luxury of home ice advantage throughout the remainder of these playoffs. So, they’ll need to rely on the maturation they’ve experienced throughout the year and win at least one game in hostile territory in order to advance. With their 3-0 overtime record in this series, it’s clear that they aren’t phased when the pressure is on and the stage is not too big for this young team.
For the Panthers, this was another step in the right direction. Just a few years ago, they were still the doormat that they had been for so long. A few promising young players, the return of Roberto Luongo and the addition of the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr have the people in southern Florida excited for what the future may hold.
Assuming Jagr decides to return, this team should be poised to make a run at a second consecutive Atlantic Division championship.
(New York Islanders Defeat Florida Panthers)