The Islanders were the “away” team for their third game against the Panthers, the second half a back to back. It is the playoffs, so it’s understandable that Barry Trotz would lean on Semyon Varlamov, but the Islanders’ success on B2B games has largely been due to the strength of their tandem - Thomas Greiss is no slouch as a backup goalie, and has at times been the starter for this team, too, including leading the Islanders to their first playoff series win in over two decades in 2016 against the Panthers. I don’t know that starting Greiss over Varlamov changes the outcome of the game, but Varlamov made a bad decision, leading to an unforced penalty, and he failed to stop a shot that he might have had in a game with more rest. Either way, sloppy penalties really sunk the Islanders in Game 3, and the team will have to be much better than that going forward.
The Islanders had some good energy during the first period, but after zone time from the Aleksander Barkov line, Scott Mayfield put the puck over the glass for delay of game on a failed clearing attempt. That would be the first of the unforced errors by the Islanders, though they’d get away with this one as Brett Connolly held Jean-Gabriel Pageau, negating the last 30 seconds of Panthers power play and giving the Islanders a minute and a half of power play time. Unfortunately, that power play didn’t get much going. The Barzal PP unit has definitely struggled this series.
The Islanders did have a few solid chances at even strength though, most notably Jordan Eberle on a breakaway that he couldn’t convert on.
Early in the second, the Islanders took their second careless penalty of the game, a too many men penalty. The Panthers would make the Islanders pay for this one, as Erik Haula scored on the man advantage to give the Panthers the lead.
The Islanders pushed back hard after giving up a goal, though, and had a 3+ minute shift in the Panthers’ zone where a Ryan Pulock shot hit the crossbar after beating Sergei Bobrovsky cleanly and Anthony Beauvillier had a shot saved by Bobrovsky.
Aaron Ekblad took a penalty for interference on Anders Lee, but again the Islanders’ power play was unimpressive.
A few minutes later, towards the end of the period, Beauvillier skated through the neutral zone, retrieved his own dump in, and skated it behind the goal line, where he passed it off to Pageau who put it past Bobrovsky to tie the game. It was a great effort from Beauvillier and a great shot from Pageau, and both of them have been great during the series.
Just 20 seconds later, Derick Brassard was called for a penalty, but about a minute and a half into the penalty, Casey Cizikas was able to bring the puck all the way into the Panthers zone and pass it in front of the net, where Barkov took down Cal Clutterbuck for a hooking penalty. Once again though, the Islanders power play didn’t accomplish anything.
Just seven seconds into the third period, Varlamov miscommunicated with Leddy and Greene, leaving the puck in no man’s land, where he then played it behind the goal line but outside of the trapezoid. That unforced error would set the tone for a terrible start to the third. The Panthers were able to convert on the man advantage, just 41 seconds into the period, with a great shot from Mike Hoffman going past Varlamov, giving the Panthers the lead.
There was a question of whether the Islanders would challenge to review a high stick that had potentially taken place before the goal, when the puck may have hit Evgenii Dadonov’s stick while it was high in the air. The Islanders didn’t challenge, likely because the play wasn’t super conclusive and probably went unnoticed, and because if it failed, taking another penalty would’ve been too risky.
Unfortunately, only two minutes later, Brian Boyle would score, after Brassard was weak preventing the Panthers entry and Devon Toews made a weak clear. The puck went to Boyle who took a shot that Varlamov should have had, as it was completely unscreened. The Boyle goal meant that the Panthers could sit back on a two goal lead for the rest of the third.
The Islanders really pushed the Panthers in the third to get those two goals back, but some of that momentum was undone by an Anders Lee penalty for high sticking that meant the Isles would have to defend for another two minutes.
With about two and a half minutes left, the Islanders pulled Varlamov, and Brock Nelson was able to get the Isles within one after Mackenzie Weegar’s helmet came off, forcing him to the bench and creating a 6 on 4.
The Islanders couldn’t get another to tie the game though, and dropped Game 3, 3-2.
- The Isles always seem stronger at sustaining pressure in the offensive zone at 5 on 5, and I think that’s personnel driven. The forwards aren’t that good at keeping the puck in the zone on the power play, and two of the best skaters and puck carriers on the team are defensemen (Toews and Leddy). Pulock’s shot is a weapon on the PP too. Trotz has been willing at times to put Toews and Pulock on the power play together with the “second” unit of Beauvillier, Nelson, Bailey/Brassard, but I’d like to see them get some time with Barzal, Lee, and Eberle, who when at their best are the three best forwards for the Islanders.
- Pageau brings so much to the Islanders - his contract is definitely an overpay, but his presence on the ice has clearly made this team better and he’s scored two big goals this series.
- I don’t understand the 4 on 4 strategy that Trotz was using in the first period - Barzal basically held onto the puck until the power play started. It’s a little too conservative for my taste, especially when you have a guy like Barzal who really shines when there’s more room on the ice for him to make plays.
Next, the Islanders will get another shot at eliminating the Panthers on Friday, August 7, time TBA.