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Gallant believes Panthers will bounce back in Game 4

Florida trails Islanders 2-1 in first-round series following overtime loss Sunday

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant is confident his team will rebound with an even stronger performance against the New York Islanders in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Barclays Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports 2, SUN, MSG+).

It's been a tough 24 hours for the Panthers, who surrendered a pair of two-goal leads in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders in Game 3 on Sunday. Florida, leading 2-0, had an apparent goal early in the second period overturned when Islanders coach Jack Capuano correctly challenged the play, claiming the Panthers were offside.

The Islanders lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.

"I know it's the playoffs but I thought we've played three good games in this series," Gallant said. "This series could easily be 2-1 in our favor, but they got some breaks. I thought we had a great Game 1 (a 5-4 loss), and the teams were pretty evenly matched in Games 2 and 3.

"I believe this team will bounce back because we've done it all year."

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Gallant has been pleased with the performances of the young players having big roles throughout the lineup. The Panthers have had nine players make their Stanley Cup Playoff debut in this series, including forwards Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Garrett Wilson, Greg McKegg and Rocco Grimaldi, and defensemen Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic and Michael Matheson.

"It's just like another game for these young kids," Gallant said. "It's the playoffs so emotions will be amped up a little bit, but I think our kids have played outstanding and I've been really happy."

Gallant said nothing the Islanders have done has surprised him. In addition to their comeback in Game 3, the Islanders also battled from a one-goal deficit to win 5-4 in Game 1 on April 14.

"They're a good hockey team, they have experience and they have some real good players," Gallant said. "They're not just going to quit in their own building."

Gallant gave his regulars the morning off the ice Monday, but forward Vincent Trocheck (foot) and defenseman Steven Kampfer (lower body) skated on their own at Prudential Center in Newark.

Video: Isles Take Game Three in OT

"Once the trainer tells me how [Trocheck] did and how he feels, we'll find out if he can practice [Tuesday]," Gallant said.

Before getting hurt March 29, Trocheck was centering one of the most productive lines in hockey with left wing Jussi Jokinen and right wing Reilly Smith.  

Twice traded in a span of three years by the Dallas Stars in 2013 and Boston Bruins in 2015, Smith leads all playoff scorers with four goals, eight points and a 2.67 points-per-game average in three games. He found a comfort level on a line with Trocheck and Jokinen in March, scoring five goals and 11 points in 14 games. He hasn't missed a beat on a line with Bjugstad and Jokinen since Trocheck sustained his injury, scoring five goals and 11 points in the past 10 games.

"He's easy to play with by the looks of it," Gallant said of Smith. "I didn't know much about the kid until we got him this year but he's been steady. He's one of those guys who kills penalties, plays the power play and plays 18-20 minutes a game. He's a guy who doesn't pass up shots and that's why he's scoring goals."

Gallant was asked if he would have Smith with his original linemates once Trocheck returns from injury. 

Video: Situation Room: Ekblad's goal overturned after review

"I don't know but I hope that problem is real soon so we'll deal with that when Trocheck is ready to go," Gallant said. "But that line of Jokinen-Bjugstad-Reilly has been outstanding in the playoffs. We'll have to see if we need to make adjustments."

There is also no guarantee that Kampfer, 27, will be reinserted back into the lineup once healthy, even though Gallant has three defensemen playing in an NHL postseason for the first time in their careers.

"I'm playing my best players; I don't care if they're veterans or young players," Gallant said. "You respect your players but at this time of year you're trying to get the best lineup that's going to win you hockey games. Sometimes that might be defensive guys or physical guys. You try to put in a mix that'll win you hockey games."

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