7:30 P.M., BB&T CENTER, SUNRISE, FLA. MSG+, NHLN-US, WFAN 101.9 FM 660AM, WBCS 880AM
1. ISLES TAKE HOME-ICE ADVANTAGE:
The Islanders took home-ice advantage back from the Panthers with a 5-4 win in Game 1 of the series on Thursday night. The Islanders had to win at least one game in Sunrise to win the series and have the potential to claim the series just by winning their remaining games at Barclays Center.
Back-to-back games are unusual for the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing for the Islanders, who are 9-3-3 in the second half of back-to-backs.
2. TOP LINE TAKES OVER:
The Islanders top line – John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen – combined for seven points (3G, 4A) in Game 1. The line has produced ever since being united on April 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tavares has been especially potent, recording goals in five straight games since joining Nielsen and Okposo and 12 points overall.
Thursday was Tavares’ third, three-point game in his last five outings and Okposo’s fourth multi-point game over that span. Nielsen has five points (2G, 3A) in his last five games.
3. STROME SCORES GAME-WINNER:
Ryan Strome scored the game-winning goal on Thursday night, his first-career playoff game-winner. It was also Strome’s first multi-point playoff game, as he set up Brock Nelson for the Islanders’ opening goal. After playing the Islanders’ final regular-season games at center, Strome was back on the wing for Game 1, playing on a line with Shane Prince and Alan Quine.
Quine, who was making his playoffs debut five days after making his NHL regular-season debut, picked up an assist on the game-winning goal.
4. GREISS STANDS TALL:
No playoff experience. No problem. Thomas Greiss came up big for the Islanders in his first postseason start, making 42 saves in the Islanders win. Greiss played a key role in the Islanders win, keeping the score under control in the first two periods with a reflex save on Teddy Purcell and a desperation save Aleksander Barkov in the second. With the Islanders up 5-4 in the final minute, Greiss came up with his biggest save of the night, stopping Jaromir Jagr’s deflection in tight.
Travis Hamonic – who was in the lineup for the first time since March 31 – had a key role in Greiss’ game-saving stop, clearing the rebound out of harm’s way.
5. PANTHERS SECONDARY SCORING:
For all of the focus on Jaromir Jagr, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, it was the Panthers’ secondary scoring that did the damage on Thursday. Reilly Smith had two goals and an assist, while Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell – two trade deadline acquisitions – hooked up for the Panthers’ opening goal. Jussi Jokinen – the Panthers’ second-leading scorer – finished the game with a goal and two assists.