The one thing the Islanders have been known for since Barry Trotz took over as head coach two years ago is being resilient.
It’s the mantra the club lives and dies by. And it was on display once again earlier this afternoon when they took a 2-0 series lead in their best-of-five qualifier with a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers.
This game started off exactly how the Isles didn’t want it to go. They were handed a four-minute power play after Mike Matheson (the guy who’s starting to really tick of Islander fans) high-sticked Brock Nelson which left Nelson bloodied. They couldn’t convert on the double minor and seconds later Mike Hoffman tallied the game’s opening goal.
The rest of the first period wasn’t much to write home about either except for Semyon Varlamov, who stopped the other seven Florida shots he faced after letting up the first goal.
But that first period seemed like a mirage, as the Isles got their game going in to start the second. It took just under seven minutes for them to tie the game.
The guy who made it happen? Tom Kuhnhackl.
Handsome Tom, who was the catalyst for the series-opening goal in game one from J.G. Pageau, was at it once again, this time hustling to a loose puck in front of the Panthers’ net and making a sweet dish BETWEEN THE LEGS (imagine that!) to Matt Martin for the equalizer.
Florida would retake the lead under two minutes later after Sasha Barkov sniped one over Varlamov’s shoulder. Still, the Islanders wouldn’t back down.
They got the Panthers into penalty trouble, and boy did they make them pay for it. This time it was Ryan Pulock doing the damage. Pulock’s clapper off a great feed from Devon Toews after the two played catch brought the game back to even.
But wait, the Islanders weren’t done yet. And it was the first line finally coming alive for the first time in the series.
Who else too? That being Jordan Eberle.
We all remember what he did in the playoffs last year, so watching him come through in the clutch again was electric.
Eberle gave the Isles their first lead of the day after Pulock hit him with a perfect cross-ice pass, to where he then faked out Panthers’ rookie d-man Brady Keeper and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky before burying one home to give the Isles their first lead of the day. He would score again for the team’s second power play goal of the day, which turned out to be the dagger for Florida.
— Eyes on Isles (@eyesonislesFS) August 4, 2020
Once the Isles got that two-goal cushion, they hunkered down and suffocated the Panthers ala what they did on Saturday.
Overall though, what was really most impressive from today’s performance? It had a little bit of everything you’d hope to see from the Islanders as the postseason moves forward.
All four lines were buzzing. Their offense came through in big spots when they were trailing. They got huge goals from the first and fourth lines after they had a quiet opener. They continued to get the job done on special teams (seven power plays, you’d think they would).
Oh and that Andy Greene guy? We can’t forget him. He was fantastic in place of the injured Johnny Boychuk.
So yeah, today had it all. And the Islanders and their fans can only hope for the same tomorrow when they have a chance to sweep the series.
What we saw in game two:
-Stay hot Anthony Beauvillier. Sure he didn’t get credit for the Isles’ fourth goal, but Beauvillier had another strong performance. He’s been one of the Islanders’ best forwards in the series. Excited to see what he has up his sleeve for game three.
-Mathew Barzal is getting dinged up. If the Isles win the series tomorrow, Barzal might be the one who benefits the most from some time waiting for the next round. He’s taken a beating this series, getting whacked with sticks and then going flying into the boards today on an odd-man rush. Barzal was ok though, but man someone might have to get him a body bag soon.
-Semyon Varlamov was sharp once again. Varlamov didn’t seem fazed after the Panthers took their leads and was again on top of his game all afternoon. He’s earned the start tomorrow in my eyes. But will see if Trotz sticks with him with the unusual back-to-back situation.
-Derick Brassard continues to be effective. Brassard had an assist on Martin’s goal and was doing his thing. He was one of the question marks coming into the postseason, but so far he’s been very good.
-J.G. Pageau. What else can you say about this guy, other than he is quickly becoming one of the biggest fan favorites on the team. He didn’t get on the scoresheet today but he continued to be a menace in the faceoff circle, winning 53% of his draws. Oh and him clowning Brian Boyle? The highlight of the day. Truly a hilarious moment.
J.G. Pageau 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/hJTZpzF2Vx
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) August 4, 2020