SUNRISE, Florida — Yes, it was the first meeting between the Islanders and Panthers since John Tavares’ double-overtime series winner to send the Isles to the Eastern Conference semifinals in April.
But as John Tavares noted: “Different scenario, different time of year.” The teams looked very different, not just in terms of the players but also the level of play both brought into Saturday’s game here.
“I think we learned a lot last year, having that bitter taste in our mouths after losing in the first round,” Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck said. “It definitely puts a little hair on your chest. You never really get over it until you make it a little further.”
Florida coach Gerard Gallant said his Panthers, who are still without key forwards Nick Bjugstad (broken hand) and Jonathan Huberdeau (partially torn Achilles), should remember the disappointment of losing to the Isles in six games but not over the way Florida played.
“I thought we played real good hockey against them. They came out on top, give them credit for that, but I wouldn’t change a thing if we played them again the way we played,” Gallant said. “I thought we controlled a lot of the hockey games in the series. They played well and scored at key times. If we had to play them again I’d be happy to take our chances again.”
Beauvillier back in for Isles
Anthony Beauvillier got back into the lineup after sitting three of the last four, taking Alan Quine’s spot. Jack Capuano said it was nothing Beauvillier had done to earn a seat.
“I’m trying to get a few of our veterans going,” Capuano said.
Quine had the second-biggest goal of the Isles-Panthers series, the Game 5 double-OT winner here before Tavares closed it out in Brooklyn. Thomas Greiss, who stopped Aleksander Barkov’s overtime penalty shot in that Game 5, backed up Jaro Halak on Saturday.
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