The New York Islanders defeated the Florida Panthers 5-2, with a hat trick from John Tavares along with goals from Jason Chimera and Nick Leddy. Chimera and Tavares opened the scoring early in the first period, and despite the Panthers’ best efforts to close the gap, the Islanders held three separate two-goal leads throughout the game. Tavares now has 501 points in the NHL, all as an Islander, and moved into tenth in all-time points in franchise history at only 26 years old.
About two minutes into the first period, the Islanders opened the scoring with a goal from Jason Chimera. Anthony Beauvillier took a shot and Chimera collected the rebound and put it past Roberto Luongo with his backhand.
Shortly after that, Nick Leddy smoothly skated the puck in, drew a penalty, and instead found John Tavares who made no mistake and put the Isles up by two goals only three minutes and 48 seconds into the first period. The goal was Tavares’ 499th point in the NHL and put him in a tie with Derek King for 10th overall in Islanders history.
At 9:55 in the first, Vincent Trocheck cut the Islanders’ lead in half. From behind the net, Jaromir Jagr found Trocheck through a crowd of players, and Trocheck was able to put the puck past Thomas Greiss.
After that, Johnny Boychuk took a holding penalty and the Islanders and Panthers exchanged rushes, but no goals came out of either offensive effort as both Luongo and Greiss held their ground.
A little less than halfway through the period, Luongo made three big stops on Anders Lee, Boychuk, and Leddy, who all had good opportunities to score on their shots. However, frustration started brewing for the Panthers, who took two consecutive penalties in the same play. Seth Griffith tied up Adam Pelech and was called for slashing, and Jakub Kindl took a cross checking penalty for hitting Brock Nelson in the face. A scrap ensued after this, but Nelson refused to take the bait and the Isles had a full two-minute 5 on 3 power play.
The power play’s futility continued, however, as the Islanders were unable to convert on the two-man advantage. Luongo made some big saves on Ryan Strome and Johnny Boychuk, who had the best opportunities.
However, with about four minutes left in the period, Nick Leddy scored an unassisted goal, bar down, giving the Isles a 3-1 lead. It’s one that Luongo probably should’ve had, but it was also a nice shot from Leddy.
Kindl took another penalty late in the period, but a slashing call on Ryan Strome counteracted it, with the period ending with the teams playing four on four.
Late in the Panthers’ power play to start the period, Reilly Smith put the puck past Greiss to bring the Cats within a goal. The Panthers started clicking then, with Greiss making a big save on Jonathan Marchessault.
However, it would be the Islanders that would strike again to bring back their two goal lead, as John Tavares scored a pretty goal to make it 4-2. With his second goal of the game, Tavares moved into sole possession of 10th all time in points in New York Islanders history.
The Islanders were given another 5 on 3 opportunity, after a penalty on Mark Pysyk for high sticking, and then a dubious call on Trocheck for delay of game. The puck did graze the glass, but the referees didn’t see it, and the Isles were given about a minute and a half with a two-man advantage.
Tavares went digging for the puck near Luongo, searching for a rebound after a Boychuk shot, and Jussi Jokinen cross-checked the captain too many times for Ryan Strome’s liking. Strome went after Jokinen, and each player got five minutes for fighting, and minors for roughing and cross-checking, respectively.
Both teams started getting feisty after the fight, with Anders Lee and Derek Mackenzie both getting matching minors for roughing.
With two and a half minutes left in the period, the Panthers pulled Luongo to put on an extra skater, and Tavares was able to complete his hat trick, securing a 5-2 win for the Isles.
Next, the New York Islanders travel to Raleigh to take on the Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow. With the win tonight, the skaters likely won’t change, but J-F Berube might get the start for the second half of the back-to-back. The Hurricanes also played tonight, defeating the Sabres 5-2, so it’ll be a battle between two tired teams on Saturday night.