Tavares turns in heroic Game 6 performance to send Islanders to second round

John Tavares (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s been 22 years in the making, but the New York Islanders are heading to the second-round of the post-season for the first time since 1993 and they have captain John Tavares to thank.

When the series began, it seemed inevitable the Islanders’ hopes would hinge on the play of Tavares, but few could have expected just how much. He had almost singlehandedly carried New York through the final months of the season with 14 goals, 29 points and an average ice time of 20 minutes over the final 29 games of the Islanders’ season. When things started to look bleak for the Islanders as they fell into the wild-card race, it was Tavares who pulled the Islanders up. It makes sense, then, that it was he who scored when New York needed it most in the post-season.

On a late third period rush started by Nick Leddy, Tavares drove right to the net, collected a loose puck that laid to the side of netminder Roberto Luongo and drove it home for the tying goal. Tavares’ marker, which came with 54 seconds left in the game, sent the Barclays Center crowd into a frenzy. It may have been what the hometown crowd has come to expect from their captain, but he outdid himself in overtime.

The Panthers had controlled much of the second overtime frame, but Tavares needed only rush to end the game. Coming down the middle of the ice, Tavares collected a short pass from Kyle Okposo in the Panthers’ zone, curled the puck in and fired a low shot on Luongo that gave a rebound. Tavares hopped on the loose puck, curled around the goal and snuck it in the far side. Read more

Panthers without Bjugstad for Game 6, listed as day-to-day after frightening injury

Jared Clinton
Nick Bjugstad (via Sportsnet/YouTube)

The Florida Panthers face their first must-win game of the post-season Sunday evening, and if the Cats are going to extend their season they’ll need to do it without one of their young impact players.

Panthers center Nick Bjugstad has been ruled out of Game 6 after suffering a scary injury during the second overtime period of Game 5. When chasing a puck in the New York Islanders’ zone during Friday’s game, Bjugstad toe-picked as he approached the boards and slammed headfirst into the half wall. Immediately, Bjugstad was clutching his head and he needed to be helped off the ice by teammates and the Panthers’ training staff: Read more

Panthers’ Petrovic makes beautiful cross-ice pass to set up tap-in for Barkov

Jared Clinton
Alex Petrovic passes to Aleksander Barkov (via NHL)

Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic isn’t exactly an offensive dynamo. In 66 games this season, the 24-year-old had two goals and 17 points and was primarily used in a third-pairing role for the Cats. But over the past two games of the first-round series against the New York Islanders, you’d think Petrovic was a game-changing puck-moving defenseman.

Petrovic scored his first goal of the post-season — and first playoff goal of his career — in Game 4 when he showed a nice bit of patience to wait out an oncoming check before firing a puck past Islanders netminder Thomas Greiss. Petrovic wasn’t done there, though, and in Game 5 he made yet another brilliant play.

With the Panthers trailing 1-0 in Game 5, Petrovic took a perfect drop pass from Aleksander Barkov, circled out to the right and then threaded an absolutely perfect pass that landed right back on Barkov’s tape. Barkov tapped the puck home to tie the game: Read more

Greiss stops OT penalty shot, Quine scores the winner to put Islanders one win from advancing

Alan Quine (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’ll be hard to come by two players who are feeling as different Friday night as the Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov and Islanders’ Alan Quine.

In the first overtime period of a back-and-forth battle between the Islanders and Panthers, the Florida pivot had the game on his stick. The Panthers were awarded a penalty shot seven minutes into the first extra frame when New York blueliner Calvin de Haan palmed the puck and tossed it out of the Islanders’ crease. The Panthers chose Barkov to take the shot, and rightfully so. He missed just once in six shootout attempts during the regular season, and there’s no other player the Panthers would have wanted to take the breakaway attempt. But Barkov, who faked forehand before attempting to hoist a backhand, couldn’t seal the game.

Barkov’s opportunity was the best chance the Panthers would have in the two overtime periods, and New York netminder Thomas Greiss, who turned aside the penalty shot attempt, stopped all but one of the 47 shots he faced. And when the Islanders got a chance to end the game on a power play in the second overtime, they made no mistake. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky faked a shot, slid the puck to Quine and the 23-year-old let go a one-timer that found the back of the net. In his sixth career NHL game, Quine scored his first career playoff goal and it was a double overtime-winner. Read more

Draft prospect Griffin Luce’s bloodlines won’t flow to Florida

Ken Campbell
Griffin Luce  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

Florida Panthers director of player personnel Scott Luce has scouted virtually every draft-eligible teenager playing in North America this season. He’s done numerous reports on each player, meticulously breaking down his strengths and weaknesses and assessing whether or not he’ll be a future NHL player. After all, that’s what he does.

But there is one player both he and the Panthers have ignored completely. Not one report has been done, not one projection made. That player would be Luce’s 18 year-old son Griffin, a defenseman for the U.S. national development team. And it has put the elder Luce in a rather awkward position as he scouts the World Under-18 Championships in Grand Forks, N.D. At times, Luce is a dispassionate scout watching future NHLers, at others he’s just another nervous dad in the stands watching his son.

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Islanders fans dump beer on…Islanders legend Denis Potvin?

Denis Potvin.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

Denis Potvin was, is and will always be among the Nassau Coliseum’s favorite sons. He’s a legend, a Hall of Famer, one of the best defensemen ever to play the game and, of course, New York Islanders royalty. He was instrumental in their four straight Stanley Cup victories from 1980 to 1983.

But that resume apparently wasn’t enough to save him from peril at Barclays Center, the Islanders’ new home building, after Game 4 of their Atlantic Division semifinal matchup versus the Florida Panthers. The Cats won to even the series 2-2 and, you see, Potvin is now the Panthers’ regular color commentator on FOX Sports. After the game, he and play-by-play man Steve Goldstein got beer or soda or some kind of liquid dumped on them by some Isles fans.

Video (well, audio by way of video) evidence of the incident, as confirmed by a Twitter user named Kevin Bustillo:

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Panthers getting the job done thanks to their lesser lights

Nick Bjugstad (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Jaromir Jagr hasn’t scored a goal in 35 playoff games. Man, that was four years and four teams ago. You remember him playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, don’t you? It’s actually five teams if you include Kladno, his hometown team in the Czech League for which he played during the last lockout.

The scoring drought will not keep the 44-year-old out of the Hockey Hall of Fame, but the Florida Panthers are going to need him to make an offensive contribution at some point in these playoffs. Perhaps the speed and chaos of the post-season doesn’t suit him very well, but you’d have to think one of the greatest players in the history of the game has a couple more big goals left in him.

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Hickey nets OT winner as Islanders take 2-1 series lead over Panthers

Thomas Hickey celebrates his game winning goal in overtime. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Islanders scored three unanswered to erase a 3-1 deficit and edge the Florida Panthers 4-3 on Sunday night.

Thomas Hickey scored the overtime winner at 12:31 of the extra period. With the win, the Islanders take a 2-1 series lead.

Hickey one-timed a Brock Nelson feed past Roberto Luongo for his first of the series.

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