The Florida Panthers appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in four years and lost to the New York Islanders 5-4 in Game 1 of the first round at BB&T Center on Thursday night. Both clubs, who have not won a playoff series in two decades, will tangle again on Friday night in Game 2.
Both teams combined for four goals during the first period. Florida got on the scoreboard first as they moved ahead 1-0 at 1:55. Dmitry Kulikov sent a long lead pass from his own zone to Jiri Hudler at the Islanders line. He skated in on a two-on-one and then fed a cross-ice pass to Teddy Purcell in the low slot for a one-time snap shot by Thomas Greiss.
New York responded quickly after they killed off the Panthers first power play of the contest and tied it at 6:39. Ryan Strome stole the puck at the red line and found Brock Nelson speeding up the middle of the ice. He skated in alone through the slot and scored on a high snap shot against Roberto Luongo.
The Panthers powered through as they scored on their second power-play opportunity at 13:51. Brian Campbell fired a slapshot from the top of the zone which was redirected by Jussi Jokinen in the low slot for a 2-1 lead.
The Islanders tied the game 2-2 with 3:14 left in the first on their first power play. John Tavares entered the zone and faked a shot from the high slot. He backhanded to Frans Nielsen in the left circle and he roofed a wrist shot.
In the second period, the Cats kept the pressure on and regained the lead 3-2 at 1:31. Nick Bjugstad won a face-off in the right circle and Jokinen passed it back to Alex Petrovic on the right point. His slapshot went wide right of the cage and bounced off the back wall then Reilly Smith put in the puck from the left of the crease.
The Isles matched their opponent for the third consecutive time and pulled even at 3-3 with 21.8 seconds left in the second. There was a loose puck deep in the Florida end that was recovered by Kyle Okposo in the low right circle. He sent a cross-ice pass to Tavares in the low left circle and he put in a tally with a snap shot.
New York finally took their first lead of the contest 4-3 at 2:33 of the third period. Campbell carried the puck around his own net and had it taken away by Tavares. He placed a short pass to Okposo who scored from the slot area.
They scored their third straight unanswered goal at 6:01. Prince raced through the right circle and centered the puck in front. Strome trailed the play and scored from the slot to give the Islanders a two-goal margin 5-3.
Florida recovered at 6:56 and cut the deficit to 5-4. Jokinen was on the left point and put a lead pass to Smith who blasted a slapshot from the left circle for his second goal of the game.