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game recap

Tavares, Islanders defeat Panthers in Game 1

New York goalie Greiss makes 42 saves in playoff debut

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The New York Islanders kept fighting back in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Florida Panthers, and their captain led the way.

John Tavares tied the game in the final minute of the second period and set up Kyle Okposo's goal early in the third to help the Islanders defeat the Panthers 5-4 at BB&T Center.

"You knew it was going to be a battle, they would come out hard, and they did," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "At the end of the day, we didn't quit and were resilient. We got some timely goals tonight."

Okposo broke a 3-3 tie at 2:33 when Tavares stole the puck from defenseman Brian Campbell and fed Okposo at the left circle before he beat goalie Roberto Luongo with a shot high to the blocker side.

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm1: Greiss robs Jagr with the pad late

Tavares had a goal and two assists for the Islanders, who took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 2 is here Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, MSG+, SUN, SN360, TVA Sports 3).

"This is the time of year, watching as a kid, watching teams compete for the Cup," Tavares said. "We're motivated and we want it as bad as anybody. It's one game. We've got to put it behind us and move on to the next one. I think that's what we've learned from the past. This what you play for all year, so you want to bring it when it matters most and play hard and give everything for your team."

Ryan Strome and Frans Nielsen each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders, and Brock Nelson scored. Thomas Greiss, in his first Stanley Cup Playoff start, made 42 saves. The 30-year-old has played 130 regular-season games in his NHL career.

"He played well," Capuano said. "Our goalie is the last line of defense and he came up big for us."

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm1: Okposo beats Luongo from the circle

Reilly Smith had two goals and an assist for Florida, tying the Panthers record for goals in a playoff game. Jussi Jokinen had a goal and two assists, Teddy Purcell scored, and Luongo made 21 saves.

"I thought our defensive game was bad," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "Some of the pucks were great shots, so I'm not going to blame [Roberto]. [Roberto] has been our key guy all year long. I just thought when you're giving guys opportunities from the slot like they had and they buried them. Those goals were nice goals, top-shelf goals, breakaway goals. We just weren't lucky enough tonight and we gave them Grade A chances. They didn't have a whole bunch of chances, but their chances were Grade A."

Florida outshot New York 46-26 in what matched its highest-scoring playoff game, tying a 6-3 victory against the Boston Bruins in the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and an 8-1 loss against the Colorado Avalanche in the 1996 Stanley Cup Final.

The Panthers took the lead three times in the first two periods, but the Islanders tied them each time.

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm1: Tavares fires home Okposo's feed

"A couple of mental lapses seemed to cost us the game," Smith said. "It's frustrating, but we weren't expecting this to be a short series anyway. There were a lot of positives we can take out of the game tonight. Luckily we play tomorrow, so we don't have to think about it too much."

Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, who came in with one goal in 33 playoff games since returning from the Kontinental Hockey League in 2011, had several good scoring chances in the first period, including a partial breakaway when Greiss stopped him. Jagr almost tied the game in the final minute, but Greiss stopped his backhand from close range.

It was a difficult game all around for Jagr, who lost a tooth in the first period when he was checked into the boards by defenseman Ryan Pulock.

"We had a lot of opportunities to score, it just didn't happen," Jagr said. "So forget about it, tomorrow is a different game. We made some mistakes, but offensively we had a lot of chances."

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm1: Smith scores his second of the night

Tavares tied the score 3-3 with 21.8 seconds left in the second period after the Islanders dumped the puck in deep and the Panthers couldn't clear. The puck went to the side of the net, where Okposo grabbed it and sent a pass across the net for a one-time redirection.

The goal came after Tavares left the ice in pain after being hit in the leg by a shot from teammate Nick Leddy.

"It was a tough goal to give up," Gallant said. "Anytime you give up a goal when you're playing a real good hockey game … and I don't think they had very many chances in the second, so that goal was tough. We played well, we should have been leading, and then we give that goal up late."

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm1: Jokinen tips home power-play goal

Strome made it 5-3 at 6:01 on a rebound after Alan Quine, who played his first two NHL games last weekend, got around defenseman Jakub Kindl and shot on net.

Smith scored 55 seconds later with a wrist shot high to the blocker side to make it 5-4.

"It seemed like I was finding the puck a lot in front of their net, which is always nice, especially in the first game of the playoffs," Smith said. "Too bad I couldn't find another one just to help the team tie that game up."

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