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First Round

Eberle glad for another chance at playoff success with Islanders

Will try to build on first NHL postseason goal when New York plays Game 2 against Penguins

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Jordan Eberle wasn't about to pick up where he left off from his only other trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The New York Islanders right wing played his first seven NHL seasons with Edmonton Oilers. His final season with Edmonton was the only time the Oilers qualified for the playoffs.

Edmonton won a series during the 2017 playoffs for the first time since it reached the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, but Eberle, who scored at least 20 goals five times during his days with the Oilers, finished with two assists in 13 games. He played 12:10 in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round, which the Oilers lost to the Anaheim Ducks.

 

[RELATED: Complete Islanders vs. Penguins series coverage]

 

That turned out to be Eberle's final game with Edmonton; he was traded to New York for forward Ryan Strome on June 22, 2017.

"I didn't think I was playing that bad," Eberle said one day after scoring the first playoff goal of his NHL career in a 4-3 overtime victory against the PIttsburgh Penguiins in Game 1 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round. "Pucks didn't go in. I seemed to be the blame of a lot of things. It was a big part probably of why I got traded from Edmonton.

"It's nice to get another chance and another rip at it. Try to take advantage of this one."

Eberle had zero interest being labeled a player who couldn't raise his game with higher stakes; after Tom Kuhnhackl's goal 33 seconds into the game at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday was overturned by a Coach's Challenge that ruled the play was offside, Eberle scored when he collected Anders Lee's redirection in front of the net, turned and put the puck between Penguins goalie Matt Murray's skates to give New York a 1-0 lead.

Sweet redemption.

Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Eberle slips home first playoff goal

"You hold a grudge," Eberle said. "It kind of [ticks] you off. You wait that long to get a chance and you don't play well, it [stinks]. You want to take advantage of this.

"It felt really good. It was a great start, especially after [Kuhnhackl's] goal got disallowed, to be able to switch gears and come right back at it. It was big. I just hope to continue to play well."

Eberle finished the regular season with 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) in 78 games, but he played a large portion of it with Brock Nelson as his center rather than Mathew Barzal before coach Barry Trotz reunited Barzal and Eberle one month ago. The chemistry the two displayed last season has been visible again; Eberle scored five goals in New York's final seven games.

Trotz obviously is aware of how things went for Eberle two years ago. He was pleased with Eberle's production Wednesday, but he needs to see similar results throughout this best-of-7 series, which continues with Game 2 at Nassau Coliseum on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2, MSG, MSG+, ATTSN-PT).

"That takes the weight off your shoulders," Trotz said. "Anytime that you've had heartache or distress, anything positive that can come in the same situation … sometimes you've got to fail a little bit to have success. I think he maybe took that to heart a little bit and he wanted to prove to everybody that he was going to have a good playoffs. That's a good start, but that's only one game. No career is ever made on one game. He'll have to follow that up."

Eberle's chances for more playoff success might increase by playing with Barzal, a playmaking center with a pass-first mentality. The Islanders played a different style when Eberle and Barzal were on the same line last season, but Eberle did score 25 goals in 81 games.

"We like playing with each other," Eberle said. "We create a lot and we play a similar style of game that we're able to read off each other. He's been playing well and playing a little bit better, and so have I. You feed off each other. It's too hard in this League to do anything by yourself. When you're playing with a guy of his caliber, and we play similar games, I think we seem to mesh."

Video: NYI@MIN: Barzal sets up Eberle after stealing puck

Islanders captain Anders Lee has been the left wing for Barzal and Eberle during the past month. How Eberle fared during the 2017 playoffs isn't necessarily a topic of conversation, but Lee is aware of his teammate's history.

"I'm proud of the way he's stuck with it. I know things haven't always been easy," Lee said. "I think that's hockey too, but he's a strong guy mentally. He can get through anything."

These could be Eberle's final days with the Islanders; he can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. But the 28-year-old insisted his sole focus has been this second NHL playoff experience and helping New York go as far as possible.

"I haven't even thought about that," Eberle said. "It's about playoffs right now. You work so hard to get to this point, and for me, they haven't come very often. I'm not even thinking about my contract; I'm thinking about Game 2 and trying to bring the same effort."

If he does and continues to produce offensively, whatever reputation Eberle thinks he may have been tagged with in 2017 will be further in the rearview mirror.

"You get excited for these games," Eberle said. "It's a fun time of the year. I played in the playoffs a couple of years ago and it didn't go too well personally. I got a lot of criticism for it, and I really wanted to come out and play hard this year.

"These chances, they don't come very often. You have to take advantage of them."

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