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Five keys for Islanders vs. Panthers, Game 4

Florida needs Jagr to end playoff scoring drought; first goal, home crowd important for New York

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders and Florida Panthers play Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round Series at Barclays Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, FS-F).

Here are five keys for Game 4:

1. Can 68 end his scoring drought?: Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr has inexplicably gone 34 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games without a goal. Despite numerous chances, Florida's top line of Jagr, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov has combined for one goal and three assists through the first three games. Jagr has been held without a point.

"He's getting opportunities, getting chances," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said of Jagr. "I'm sure he's frustrated with it. I would have never known he went that long without scoring a goal until it comes up in the media. But he's played well, he's working hard and it is what it is. Hopefully a couple will go in off his leg tonight or something."

What can New York do to limit Jagr's chances?

"Make him defend," Islanders captain John Tavares said. "He's obviously getting older. You want to wear a guy like that down so when he's got to play in his own end, he doesn't have the energy to get up the ice and make plays and do what he does best."

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm3: Smith nets his fourth goal of playoffs

2. Eliminate the early goal: The Islanders enter with a 2-1 lead in this best-of-7 series despite allowing a goal within the first five minutes in each of the three games. It's a trend New York must change if it hopes to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 23 years.

"It's so important; that first goal means a lot," said defenseman Thomas Hickey, who scored the Islanders' overtime goal in a 4-3 win in Game 3 on Sunday. "We sort of discredited that a little bit this year, but League-wide, it's important to get that first one. I think the statistics would show you the advantage you have. We want to get [the crowd] in it right away. We know they're going to be patient, but when you get all that pent-up energy, you want to let it out for them. It's going to be important to start big, physical and hopefully get that first one, too."

3. Panthers on the PK: Florida was unable to protect 2-0 and 3-1 leads in Game 3, in part to some undisciplined play in the second period. Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock capitalized on a two-man advantage before forward Frans Nielsen scored with 3:05 left in the period after Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov took a clipping penalty.

Gallant said Wednesday he wasn't too disappointed with his penalty kill, but the Panthers can't put themselves in a similar situation in Game 4.

"For me, the first one was a 5-on-3, not much you can do on that. It was a rocket shot and there was a screen in front," Gallant said. "You don't make adjustments on that one, besides winning the faceoff hopefully. It was a great shot and a great goal.

"The second one, they made a real good backhand play, an inside play. You've got to take skilled guys away. Tavares can make those passes, Nielsen has a good backhand shot. … It wasn't like the PK was bad. They made a couple good plays."

Video: NYI@FLA, Gm1: Nelson wrists one past Luongo

4. New York's second line: Islanders coach Jack Capuano has made it clear how important secondary scoring is in this series, and New York has the lead in this series despite three points combined from Brock Nelson, Nikolay Kulemin and Josh Bailey.

Nelson, who set up Hickey in overtime Sunday, hopes his line can use the Game 3 winner as an offensive spark Wednesday.

"I don't think it's been a terrible series for us," Nelson said. "Obviously a tough game in Game 2, but that happens, a couple bad breaks. I think people look a lot at the plus/minus and kind of just associate that with bad games. It is what it is.

"But it was nice to get that one [Sunday]. I told [Bailey] after the game that it was nice to be out there for that. A good feeling, so hopefully [we can] build off that and continue to push and create offensively."

Video: #MyPlayoffsMoment: Isles fans celebrate OT winner

5. More electricity from the fans: Barclays Center hosted an NHL playoff game for the first time Sunday and the fans certainly did not disappoint. The Islanders were the beneficiaries of a raucous capacity crowd, and a similar atmosphere in Game 4 could go a long way in determining if New York can head back to Florida with a commanding 3-1 series lead.

"Our fans are so good … we don't want to give up the first [goal], but we saw what happened last game, and they stayed really into it," Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "That was a huge component to us coming back in that game. They've been great support all season, and last game was awesome. Selfishly, I think we just expect the same tonight because of how awesome the atmosphere is. We certainly are hoping for the same turnout and hopefully another good effort by us."

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