The Islanders and Panthers are going back to Florida tied 2-2.
Alex Petrovic scored at 9:25 of the third period, giving the Panthers a 2-1 edge in a pivotal Game 4 on Wednesday night at Barclays Center. Instead of going back to Sunrise up 3-1, the best-of-seven series has become a best-of-three, with home ice shifting back to the Panthers.
“It was going to be a fight; we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy series,” Matt Martin said. “It’s a game we wanted to win, but they were just a little better than us tonight. We’ll regroup and get ready for a big one in Florida.”
Game 4 was airtight, a closely-checked affair, with neither team giving an inch and time and space at an absolute premium. So it was fitting that the first two goals - by Florida’s Teddy Purcell and the Islanders’ John Tavares – came on the power play, one of the few times there was any extra room to maneuver on the ice.
“The games are so meaningful and certainly it was tight today,” Tavares said. “I think that’s only going to develop as the series goes on. There’s less room for error for both teams.”
Thomas Greiss (27 saves) was solid again for the Islanders, especially during an early Panthers surge, during which the German goalie held the fort and ultimately his team in the game. Even on the Panthers opening goal, Greiss made a couple of sprawling stops on Jaromir Jagr, but was eventually beat while scrambling to get across the net as Jagr dished to Purcell.
At that point, the Panthers were still in the driver’s seat, but the Islanders were able to get themselves back into a tie game on a late two-man advantage at the end of the second period. With Aleksander Barkov already in the box for a slash on Travis Hamonic, Dmitry Kulikov went off for a trip, opening the door to end the period on a high note.
With the threat of a big point shot, Ryan Pulock collapsed the defense, but dished outside to Tavares. The Islanders’ captain utilized the extra space – Barkov left the box, but had yet to rejoin the play – and roofed his third of the playoffs past Roberto Luongo (26 saves).
“You’re not going to win many games when you score one goal,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “We have one line [Tavares, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo] creating all our offense right now. We have to find a way like we did in Florida when we had secondary scoring and the other night here when we had secondary scoring.”
The Islanders will travel to Florida on Thursday for Friday’s Game 5. Puck drop from Sunrise goes at 8 p.m. The start time has not been determined for Game 6 on Sunday at Barclays Center.
NOTES: Ryan Pulock left the game in the third period and did not return. Capuano said Pulock would be reevaluated on Thursday.
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