Stanley Cup playoff roundup
Islanders 2, Panthers 1
Semyon Varlamov stopped 27 shots and the Islanders opened their best-of-five playoff series with a win over Florida on Saturday in the NHL’s return following a 4 1/2-month break.
Anthony Beauvillier scored the decisive goal on a power play at 3:39 of the second period. The goal was scored a little over a minute after Florida's Mike Matheson was penalized for a hit to the head on defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who did not return.
Coach Barry Trotz didn't have an update on Boychuk following the game but was pleased in how the Islanders not only stayed disciplined immediately following the hit, but also capitalized on the penalty.
“The best way to respond after a hit or whatever is a goal on the power play," Trotz said.
Islanders trade deadline addition Jean-Gabriel Pageau opened the scoring re-directing in Derick Brassard’s centering pass 12 minutes into the game.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored 23 seconds into the third period for Florida's lone goal.
The Islanders entered the NHL's 24-team expanded playoff as the Eastern Conference's seventh seed, while the Panthers are 10th.
Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 26 shots in his first start since Feb. 29. Bobrovsky missed the Panthers’ final four games due to injury before the NHL season was paused on March 12.
The Islanders beat Florida for the fifth straight time, dating to the 2018-19 regular season, and continued keeping the high-scoring Panthers in check.
“We did it the right way,” Beauvillier said. “A really quick pace. It was a tough game out there. The whole team was ready for it.”
Florida finished this coronavirus pandemic-shortened season ranked fourth in the NHL in averaging 3.3 goals per game but has now managed just five goals in four games against the Islanders.
Aleksander Barkov, who assisted on Huberdeau's goal, said the Panthers lacked second-chance opportunities.
“We were kind of like one and done,” Barkov said. “That's how (the Islanders) are going to play, and we just need to figure out how to create more chances.”
The Panthers managed just four shots after Huberdeau scored. And their most sustained pressure occurred midway through the second period, when they controlled the play in the New York zone for about a minute.
The Islanders finally cleared the zone after defenseman Ryan Pulock blocked a shot, forcing a turnover.
The Panthers are suddenly in a familiar hole in their bid to win just the franchise's second playoff series, and first since reaching the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, which Florida lost in four games to Colorado.
The Panthers have not advanced beyond the first round in each of their past five playoff appearances since.
Varlamov shook off a late-season slump in which he went 0-2-2 and allowed 18 goals in five appearances, and earned his 14th career playoff win, and first since with Colorado in 2014.
Boychuk was hurt while crossing the Florida blue line after dumping the puck into the zone, when Matheson lowered his shoulder and caught the Islanders player directly in the head.
Boychuk lay face down on the ice before slowly getting up and headed directly to the locker room.
An officials’ review led to Matheson being issued a minor penalty for an illegal check.
The Islanders capitalized on the ensuing power play with Beauvillier one-timing in Devon Toews' pass into the right circle.
Huberdeau scored on an odd-man rush, in which he was allowed to cut in alone from the left wing and slip a shot under Varlamov.
The Panthers’ Joel Quenneville coached his 216th career playoff game, which ranks second on the all-time list. His 118 wins ranks third on the list and remains five short of matching former Islanders coach Al Arbour, who ranks second.
Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (OT)
Jeff Petry scored at 13:57 of overtime, Carey Price made 39 saves and Montreal beat Pittsburgh in Game 1 of their best-of-five qualifying round series.
Petry picked up a loose puck in the right faceoff circle and ripped a shot past goalie Matt Murray.
The game was played at empty Scotiabank Arena in the NHL’s return following a 142-day absence after COVID-19 ground the sport to a halt.
Jonathan Drouin had a chance to win it for Montreal in overtime on a penalty shot when he was held on a breakaway, but the puck rolled off the end of his stick and dribbled wide.
Montreal’s Conor Sheary also failed on a penalty shot with 3:03 left in regulation, missing the net. The game was the first NHL postseason contest with two penalty shots since March 29, 1923.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki scored to give 12th-seeded Montreal a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
The fifth-seeded Penguins rallied midway through the period with Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust connecting in a 2:39 span.
Montreal killed off a 5-on-3 power play for 1:32 early in the third period despite sustained pressure. Both teams then failed to connect on 5-on-4 advantages, with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin coming closest from the slot.
Flames 4, Jets 1
Johnny Gaudreau and Mikael Backlund scored power-play goals to lead Calgary a win over Winnipeg in the opener of their qualifying round series.
Tobias Rieder had a short-handed goal and Andrew Mangiapane added an empty-netter for Calgary. Cam Talbot stopped 17 shots.
Andrew Copp scored midway through the first period to give Winnipeg the lead minutes after the Jets lost Mark Scheifele to a leg injury. Patrik Laine then left the game early in the third after a collision with Flames captain Mark Giordano.
Connor Hellebuyck finished with 29 saves for the Jets.
Game 2 in the best-of-5 series is Monday.
The potential loss of season scoring co-leader Scheifele would be devastating for Winnipeg’s Stanley Cup prospects.
Scheifele went awkwardly into the boards at 5:41 of the first. He appeared to jam his left leg under him as Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk applied his arm to Scheifele’s back. Tkachuk’s skate appeared to make contact with Scheifele’s, but no penalty was called on the play.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler summoned Tkachuk for retribution on the Flames forward’s next shift. Tkachuk obliged and the two traded punches.
Just 31 seconds after that scrap, Adam Lowry dished a backhand from behind the net out front to Copp to whip over Talbot’s glove for the early lead.
But Winnipeg otherwise mustered little offense with a power play held scoreless on seven chances.
Blackhawks 6, Oilers 4
Rookie winger Dominik Kubalik had two goals and three assists to help the Chicago beat host Edmonton in Game 1 of their best-of-five qualifying round series.
The game was played in front of tarps, massive video screens, and empty seats at Rogers Place, which is hosting the 12 Western Conference teams as the NHL completes the 2019-20 season.
Kubalik scored twice in the second period, the first goal chasing starter Mike Smith from the Oilers net (five goals on 23 shots), and the second getting past Mikko Koskinen to make it 6-2. Kubalik had 30 goals and 16 assists before regular-season play was halted in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews added two goals and an assist, Dylan Strome, Brandon Saad also scored.
Connor McDavid had a goal and three assists for Edmonton, and Leon Draisaitl, James Neal and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also scored.
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