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Islanders' special teams come through in win over Panthers

Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) is congratulated after

Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) is congratulated after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky

SUNRISE, Fla. — Special teams were just that for the Islanders on Thursday night.

They concluded a 2-1-0 road trip with a 3-1 win over the Panthers at BB&T Center, going 2-for-4 on the man advantage and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill against the seventh-ranked power play in the NHL. The Islanders swept the season series from the Panthers.

“Our kill did a phenomenal job tonight,” said Anders Lee, who had a power-play assist, was assessed 17 minutes in penalties for confronting Brian Boyle for his high hit on defenseman Adam Pelech and capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with three seconds left. “Our power plays, even where we didn’t score, I thought we did a good job picking up some good momentum.”

Thomas Greiss made 32 saves for the Islanders (21-7-2). Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 shots for the Panthers (15-11-5).

The Islanders (21-7-2) concluded a grueling stretch of 10 of 13 games on the road by going a respectable 5-4-1 in the away games.

It certainly ended well with this victory and Monday night’s 5-1 win over the Lightning. In that game, the Islanders held the NHL’s second-best power play without a goal in three tries and went 1-for-2 with the man advantage. The Islanders also played well five-on-five in Saturday’s 5-1 loss at Dallas, but the Stars went 2-for-2 on the power play.

“We put a lot of emphasis on that,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said of the special-teams play. “Knowing they have a very good power play, we have to do the job on the penalty kill. And when we get chances on the power play, we’ve got to find a way, and tonight we did.”

The Islanders went ahead 2-0 with two power-play goals in the first 4:40 of the second period.

Defenseman Devon Toews, with his first goal in 24 games, connected from the blue line 49 seconds into the period on a shot that deflected in off the Panthers’ Noel Acciari.

That became a two-goal lead at 4:40. Mathew Barzal finished a tic-tac-toe passing sequence started by Josh Bailey to Jordan Eberle after Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar turned the puck over deep in his zone.

“We’re four line-based, six defensemen and two goalies,” said Eberle, who also had the primary assist on Toews’ goal. “You have to put yourself and your egos aside and play within the structure. We’re winning hockey games doing that. Then, when special teams click on top of that, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”

The Panthers cut their deficit to 2-1 at 9:36 of the second period as Mike Hoffman converted a two-on-one feed from defenseman Mark Pysyk.

The Islanders played the final 8:58 of the second period down two players. Boyle leveled Pelech in the neutral zone and the defenseman needed stitches after being cut by his own stick. Lee immediately confronted Boyle, and each got a five-minute fighting major. Lee received an additional two-minute minor for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct.

Pelech did not return until the start of the third period.

“We lost a guy to stitches,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Even if it was his own stick, that was close to a head shot. We lost a good defenseman for the rest of the period and then we lost our captain for 17 minutes. It didn’t seem very fair and they are on the power play above all that.”

The Islanders limited the Panthers to four power-play shots and blocked four shots — two by defenseman Scott Mayfield — on their first-period penalty kill.

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