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Islanders look to go up 3-1 on Panthers

New York aims to win first back-to-back playoff games since 2002

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / Managing Editor


Eastern Conference First Round

New York leads best-of-7 series 2-1

TV: 8 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, FS-F

NEW YORK - The New York Islanders will try to win back-to-back Stanley Cup Playoff games for the first time in 14 years when they host the Florida Panthers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series on Wednesday.

To do so, they'll probably need to get off to a better start.

Florida has scored the first goal in each of the three games in this series, just as it did during the three regular-season games between the teams. The Panthers led 2-0 in Games 2 and 3, though the Islanders were able to rally for a 4-3 overtime victory in Game 3.

But New York captain John Tavares knows playing from behind is not a formula for long-term success.

"We want to get off to a better start. I think that's already a point of emphasis," he said after the Islanders' optional morning skate. "We have to understand that the first 10 minutes are always crucial; there's always so much energy, a lot of emotion, the intensity is high. You can get out of position, try to do a little too much. It's important to stay focused on doing our job."

The Islanders have not won consecutive playoff games since defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in Games 3 and 4 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. They haven't had a two-game lead in a series since the first round in 1993, when they eliminated the Washington Capitals in six games. Their last series win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Patrick Division Final in 1993.

"It's a big game," Tavares said. "How badly do we want to go up 3-1? We have to go out with desperation and seize the opportunity."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano will go with the same lineup that won Game 3, meaning young forwards Alan Quine and Shane Prince will play, as will rookie defenseman Ryan Pulock, whose power-play goal started New York's comeback in Game 3.

Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said goaltender Roberto Luongo will make his fourth straight start but that he might make "one, maybe two" changes up front. Forward Derek McKenzie didn't take part in the morning skate, but Gallant said "he's fine" when asked about the fourth-liner's readiness for the game.

Gallant had few complaints with his team's play in the first three games.

"Losing that last game in overtime was tough, but I think overall we've played real well," he said. "The guys feel good, they feel they've played well in the series. We're behind 2-1, so tonight is a huge game for both teams."

Though forward Jaromir Jagr, the Panthers' leading scorer during the regular season, hasn't had a point in the three games so far and hasn't scored a goal in his past 34 playoff games, Gallant said he's not worried.

"He's getting opportunities. He's getting chances," Gallant said. "I'm sure he's frustrated with it. He's played well; he's working hard. It is what it is. Hopefully a couple will go in off his leg tonight."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen - Nick Bjugstad - Reilly Smith

Jiri Hudler - Derek MacKenzie - Teddy Purcell

Garrett Wilson - Greg McKegg - Shawn Thornton

Dmitry Kulikov - Aaron Ekblad

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson

Michael Matheson - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: Vincent Trocheck (foot), Dave Bolland (lower body), Willie Mitchell (concussion), Steven Kampfer (lower body)

Scratched: Quinton Howden, Logan Shaw, Jakub Kindl


Frans Nielsen - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Nikolay Kulemin - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey

Shane Prince - Alan Quine - Ryan Strome

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy - Travis Hamonic

Calvin de Haan - Johnny Boychuk

Thomas Hickey - Ryan Pulock

Thomas Greiss

Jean-Francois Berube

Injured: Anders Lee (broken fibula), Mikhail Grabovski (upper body), Brian Strait (upper body), Jaroslav Halak (lower body)

Scratched: Marek Zidlicky, Adam Pelech, Steve Bernier, Eric Boulton, Christopher Gibson

Status report: Trocheck, a 25-goal scorer during the regular season, skated at practice again and took some line rushes but won't play. Gallant has said he expects Trocheck, who hasn't played since March 29, to return to the lineup before the series is over. Kampfer is also skating and could return soon, according to Gallant.

Who's hot: Smith has eight points in the series, including three in Game 3. He had two goals and an assist in Game 1, and a goal and an assist in Game 2. … Bjugstad has goals in back-to-back games. ... Tavares has six points in the series, though his six-game goal-scoring streak ended Sunday when he didn't score in Game 3. ... Okposo has five points in the series; he and Tavares each had two assists on Sunday.

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