TORONTO (AP) Anthony Beauvillier scored twice, and the New York Islanders beat the Florida Panthers 5-1 to clinch an NHL best-of-five preliminary round playoff series in four games on Friday.
Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal had a goal and assist each in a game the Islanders never trailed. Defenseman Ryan Pulock made a diving stick save to prevent Florida’s Aleksander Barkov from scoring into an open side to maintain New York’s 3-1 lead midway through the second period.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 24 shots, Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored an empty-netter, and the Eastern Conference’s seventh-seeded Islanders bounced back from a 3-2 loss in Game 3 on Wednesday.
New York will open the best-of-seven first-round series against a yet to be determined opponent next week.
Mike Hoffman scored his Florida-leading third goal and fifth point of the series, while Sergei Bobrovsky proved inconsistent in stopping 33 shots.
The 10th-seeded Panthers wound up one-and-done for their fifth consecutive postseason appearance, and eliminated for the second straight time by the Islanders. New York needed six games to eliminate the Panthers in a best-of-seven first-round series in 2016.
Florida hasn’t won a playoff series since making its first postseason appearance in 1996, when the team reached the Stanley Cup Final only to be swept by Colorado.
The Islanders are making their second consecutive playoff appearance in two years under coach Barry Trotz, and only sixth since the 2004-05 NHL lockout. New York swept Pittsburgh in the first round last year before being swept by Carolina in the second.
The Islanders caught the Panthers napping in building a 2-0 lead on Beauvillier’s two goals by the 15:10 mark of the first period.
New York’s 2015 first-round draft pick opened the scoring 11:33 in when he shoveled a bad-angle, no-look backhander from the right of the net and had the puck bank in off the inside of Bobrovsky’s left pad.
Some four minutes later, Barzal drew most of the Panthers’ attention by skating the puck up the right wing, and set up Beauvillier, who was driving in alone up the middle.
Hoffman, with his third goal and fifth point of the series, cut New York’s lead to 2-1 with 1:19 left in the period, and 12 seconds after Islanders forward Jordan Eberle was penalized for hooking. Jonathan Huberdeau fed the puck through the crease to Hoffman, who one-timed it in from the right side.
Nelson made it 3-1 by converting Josh Bailey’s cross-ice pass into the right circle 12:01 into the second period, and 14 seconds after the Panthers were penalized for too many men.
Florida had a golden opportunity to get that goal back 25 seconds later. With Varlamov out of position, Barkov had an open right side of the net to shoot at only to have Pulock dive across and deflect Barkov’s backhander over the net.
The Islanders fired 31 shots on net through two periods, and 38 overall, two days after managing just 22 against Florida.
The offensive-minded Panthers had difficulty generating goals against the tight-checking Islanders. After finishing sixth in the NHL in averaging 3.3 goals per game, Florida scored just seven this series – and only three in even-strength situations.
NOTES: Isles RW Leo Komarov made his playoff debut, replacing Tom Kuhnhackl. … Huberdeau played after failing to finish Game 3, in which he appeared shaken up following a collision with teammate Noel Acciari. … The Panthers’ victory in Game 3 marked just the third time they’ve won when facing elimination. Florida had lost five straight elimination games since overcoming 3-2 series deficit against Pittsburgh in 1996 Eastern Conference finals.
Panthers: Season over.
Islanders: Advance to first round with opponent and date to be determined.
Photo credit – John E. Sokolowski / USA Today / Toronto, ON