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Game 2 win gives Islanders a commanding series lead over the Panthers

Jordan Eberle scored two goals as the Islanders

Jordan Eberle scored two goals as the Islanders defeated the Florida Panthers, 4-2, on Tuesday in Game 2 of their the best-of-five Stanley Cup qualifier series.  Credit: NY Islanders

The mandate for the Islanders on Wednesday as they try to sweep the Panthers in their best-of-five qualifying series is clear.

“We know we’re going to get their best game of the series,” defenseman Andy Greene said. “We’ve got to come out and set the pace and not dip our toes in it.”

The Islanders managed to survive a sluggish start Tuesday, twice erasing one-goal deficits to rally for a 4-2 win in Game 2 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. They overcame the slow start by going 2-for-7 on the power play and scoring the final three goals, the last two by Jordan Eberle.

Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-five series have advanced 55 of 56 times in NHL history.

“I think the mentality is still the same,” said Matt Martin, who tied the score at 1-1 at 6:12 of the second period, taking a between-the-legs drop pass from Tom Kuhnhackl at the crease after Greene’s forecheck started the sequence. “We’ve just got to stay the course. There are so many momentum swings throughout the course of the game, throughout the course of a series. We’ve just got to stay focused on the task at hand, stay disciplined. Their life is essentially on the line tomorrow.”

Semyon Varlamov made 24 saves, while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 30 shots for the Panthers.

Greene, acquired from the Devils on Feb. 16, played his first postseason game for the Islanders with Johnny Boychuk unavailable with a suspected head injury suffered Saturday in the Islanders’ 2-1 Game 1 victory.

The Islanders can take some confidence into Game 3 in how well they are playing the Panthers five-on-five. The Panthers went 1-for-3 on the power play but their first goal, Mike Hoffman’s shot from the right for a 1-0 lead at 11:16 of the first period, came just two seconds after a slashing penalty to Anthony Beauvillier expired.

Protecting a 3-2 lead to start the third period, the Islanders did not allow the Panthers a shot on net from the 5:21 mark until 18:45.

“I think we’re on the right side of the puck,” coach Barry Trotz said. “When you’re on the right side of people, it’s hard to maintain offense or get a lot of offense. We’ve made good puck decisions, limited time and space. When all else fails, we’ve been desperate and committed to blocking a shot if we need to.”

The Islanders blocked 16 shots, including three by defenseman Nick Leddy, who paired with Greene, and Adam Pelech’s block of Evgenii Dadonov’s wrist shot in the final minute.

Eberle’s second goal, while on the power play, came as Beauvillier’s shot from the left circle deflected off his leg at 10:29 of the third period to give the Islanders a two-goal edge.

“When it comes to the playoffs, special teams is so key,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock, whose power-play blast from the left tied the score at 2-2 at 13:48 of the second period. “They’ve got a pretty lethal power play over there. As a power play, we’ve got to get a goal when we can. We had some big goals and when we didn’t score we were able to get some momentum and take some control over it.”

Eberle scored the winner at 16:27 of the second period as he patiently waited for Bobrovsky to give him an opening.

Aleksander Barkov’s power-play goal at 7:38 of the second had regained a 2-1 lead for the Panthers.

“You don’t want to give that team any life,” Martin said. “They’ve got talent. We’ve got to be prepared for a big one [Wednesday].”

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