3 Keys: Islanders vs. Panthers, Game 3 of Cup Qualifiers


No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers


New York leads best-of-5 series, 2-0

The New York Islanders would advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs by defeating the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Wednesday.

The Islanders have outscored the Panthers 6-3 in the series in Toronto, the hub city for the Eastern Conference, and will try to qualify for the playoffs for the second straight season.

Teams with a 2-0 lead are 56-1 (98.2 percent) winning a best-of-5 NHL series (39-1 when last used from 1980-86). The Islanders defeated the Washington Capitals in a 1985 series.

“We’re obviously happy to have a 2-0 lead and hopefully we can finish the job tomorrow,” New York forward Matt Martin said after a 4-2 win in Game 2 on Tuesday. “You don’t want to give that team any life. They have a lot of talent over there. … We need to be prepared for a big one tomorrow.”

Here are 3 keys for Game 3:


1. Islanders’ top line

After combining for two shots on goal and no points in Game 1, New York’s top line of Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle generated offense with three points (two goals, one assist) and 12 shots on goal in Game 2.

Eberle scored two goals in the 4-2 win and has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 10 postseason games with the Islanders. Another big game from him and his linemates would go a long way in helping the Islanders wrap up the series.

“I looked at our first game, and it was definitely a quiet night,” Eberle said. “Tonight, we wanted to make an impact. [Barzal] does such a great job of coming through the neutral zone and creating time for us. [Lee] is just such a bull down low on the puck. You see him a lot down there. It was good to see us start to contribute and create some offense. Hopefully, we keep it going.”


2. Special teams

The Panthers were 1-for-3 on the power play in Game 2 and have had four opportunities in the series (1-for-4). They allowed two power-play goals in Game 2 and are 7-for-10 on the penalty kill in the series.

“Penalties, they cost us in this game too,” center Aleksander Barkov said. “We can’t take so many penalties as we did again today. It gives the momentum to them. They get to play on the power play, they get to put their best players on the ice.”

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm2: Pulock goes five-hole for PPG


3. More offense from Panthers

Florida has 56 shots on goal and 107 shot attempts in the series, scoring on three of them. Its five 20-goal scorers during the regular season (Mike Hoffman, 29; Evgenii Dadonov, 25; Jonathan Huberdeau, 23; and Barkov and Noel Acciari, 20 each) haven’t generated much offense, combining for six points (three goals, three assists).


Panthers projected lineup 

Jonathan Huberdeau — Aleksander Barkov — Evgenii Dadonov

Aleksi SaarelaErik HaulaMike Hoffman

Frank VatranoBrian BoyleBrett Connolly

Colton Sceviour — Noel Acciari — Mark Pysyk

MacKenzie WeegarAaron Ekblad

Keith YandleMike Matheson

Brady KeeperAnton Stralman

Sergei Bobrovsky

Chris Driedger

Scratched: Josh Brown, Philippe Desrosiers, Dryden Hunt, Eetu Luostarinen, Sam Montembeault, Chase Priskie, Riley Stillman, Owen Tippett, Dominic Toninato, Lucas Wallmark

Unfit to play: None


Islanders projected lineup

Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle

Anthony BeauvillierBrock NelsonJosh Bailey

Tom KuhnhacklJean-Gabriel PageauDerick Brassard

Matt Martin — Casey CizikasCal Clutterbuck

Adam PelechRyan Pulock

Devon ToewsScott Mayfield

Nick LeddyAndy Greene

Semyon Varlamov

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Sebastian Aho, Michael Dal Colle, Noah Dobson, Christopher Gibson, Thomas Hickey, Ross Johnston, Otto Koivula, Leo Komarov, Andrew Ladd

Unfit to play: Johnny Boychuk


Status report

Boychuk did not play in Game 2 after an illegal check to the head from Matheson in Game 1. If he can’t play again, Greene likely will replace him for the second straight game. … Rookies Keeper and Saarela could remain in the lineup. Keeper replaced Stillman and Saarela took Toninato’s spot in Game 2.

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