Mike Halford

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) and center Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrate after they defeated the Montreal Canadiens in an NHL hockey game, Saturday, April 2, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
AP

Panthers win first playoff game in four years, even up series with Isles

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The last time Florida won a playoff game, Jose Theodore was in net and Kris Versteeg scored the game-winning goal.

So yeah, this one was a long time coming.

Florida defeated the Islanders 3-1 in Game 2 of their opening-round series on Friday night, the first time the Panthers have won a postseason tilt since beating New Jersey in the opening round four years ago.

Back then, it was Theodore and Versteeg doing the business.

Tonight? Roberto Luongo and Reilly Smith.

The veteran goalie won his first-ever playoff game for the Cats — the franchise that drafted him, then re-acquired him three years ago — with an outstanding effort, stopping 41 of 42 shots faced. It was a great bounce-back from Bobby Lu who, in Game 1, faced some criticism after surrendering five goals on just 26 shots.

Not surprisingly, Luongo was named the first star on Friday.

Smith, meanwhile, continued his terrific play with another two-point effort, scoring Florida’s first goal and setting up Nick Bjugstad‘s game-winner. The 25-year-old now has five points through two games, continuing on from the fine regular season form that saw him score a career-high 25 goals and 50 points.

For the Islanders, John Tavares continued his great play to start this series by scoring his team’s only goal. That puts Tavares on four points through the first two games.

In goal, Thomas Greiss stopped 28 of 30 shots faced.

From Florida’s perspective, tonight’s game was a virtual must-win after dropping Game 1 at home — so, as far as the Cats are concerned, mission accomplished. That should provide some good momentum heading into Brooklyn for Game 3.

For the Islanders — well, it’s a bit more tricky. They got what they wanted in the opener, achieving the split in Sunrise. But given how badly they out-shot the Panthers tonight, they’re probably leaving Florida wondering if they could’ve gotten more — like, say, a 2-0 series lead.

Wings can’t handle new-look Triplets line, Bolts take 2-0 series lead

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Who needs Steve Stamkos when you’ve got Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn?

That’s what Tampa Bay fans have to be at least thinking — maybe not out loud, but quietly — after Friday’s 5-2 win over Detroit at Amalie Arena, one that gave the Bolts a commanding 2-0 series lead.

For the second straight game, the “Revamped Triplets” line proved too much for the Red Wings. Johnson, Kucherov and Killorn combined for eight points — four of them from Johnson — which came after a Game 1 in which the trio went for seven.

So yeah, 15 points in two games. No wonder the Red Wings are in a hole.

As for tonight, Brad Richards and Dylan Larkin replied for Detroit. It was the first Stanley Cup playoff goal for Larkin, the Red Wings’ star rookie, but it came on a night in which Larkin and his mates just couldn’t keep pace with the new-look Triplets.

The original Triplets Line, you’ll recall, featured Ondrej Palat in place of Killorn — and last year, Palat’s chemistry with Johnson and Kucherov saw him rack up a career-best 63 points during the regular season, and another 16 in 26 playoff games.

Killorn, at least trough two games this series, hasn’t missed a beat.

After a solid regular season in which he scored 40 points, Killorn’s found similar success playing alongside Johnson and Kucherov, and was a thorn in Detroit’s side all night on Friday.

Speaking of thorns in sides, Detroit and Tampa Bay really don’t like one another. After a hostile Game 1 in which the two sides combined for 36 penalty minutes, the teams upped the ante on Friday, combining for a whopping 109.

There was also Danny DeKeyser‘s big, questionable hit on Ondrej Palat midway through the contest, which seemed to add more fuel to the fire:

Ben Bishop had another solid night in goal for Tampa, finishing with 30 saves on 32 shots. Though he was at no fault for the loss, Jimmy Howard finished with pedestrian numbers — four goals allowed on 30 shots, and .867 save percentage.

The series now shifts to Detroit, where the Red Wings will host the Bolts in Game 3 on Sunday. That gives head coach Jeff Blashill 48 hours to try and come up with a way to stop Johnson, Kucherov and Killorn.

If Blashill doesn’t, this series isn’t going much longer.

Wings-Lightning nastiness continues as DeKeyser nails Palat (Video)

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There was no shortage of angst in Game 1 of the Tampa Bay-Detroit series, as the two teams combined for 36 penalty minutes.

And there’s been no shortage of it in Game 2, either.

Things reached a fever pitch midway during the second period when Detroit d-man Danny DeKeyser hammered Tampa’s Ondrej Palat behind the Red Wings goal.

The hit resulted in a pair of roughing penalties — to Riley Sheahan and Jonathan Drouin — and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for Victor Hedman.

So no, DeKeyser was not penalized for the hit.

That decision came under some scrutiny, as Palat looked shaken up on the play and exited briefly. He did return to action and took regular shifts for the remainder of the second period.

Video: Reilly Smith is on fire

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We’ve now got a three-way tie atop the playoff goalscoring leaderboard — just minutes after Nikita Kucherov tied Patric Hornqvist on three goals, Florida’s Reilly Smith got into the act by firing home a rebound past Thomas Greiss for his third goal of the series.

Oh yeah, we’ve also got a new playoff scoring leader.

Smith took that one over by setting up Nick Bjugstad‘s second-period goal to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead. That also gave Smith five points… through five periods of action.

This early playoff success is a continuation of the banner campaign Smith enjoyed in Florida this season, when he racked up a career-high 25 goals and 50 points.

Now, he’s just one playoff goal away from matching the career-best four he notched with Boston during the ’14 postseason.

Bolts’ Brown exits with upper-body injury, won’t return

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 13:  J.T. Brown #23 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tomas Tatar #21 of the Detroit Red Wings battle for the puck during the third period in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 13, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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An otherwise good opening period for Tampa ended on a down note as, during the first intermission, the team announced J.T. Brown suffered an upper-body injury, and wouldn’t return.

Brown was hurt blocking a shot early in the contest, and quickly skated to the bench in discomfort. He played just 2:29 before being ruled out entirely.

A hard-working, physical presence at forward, Brown had a nice year for the Bolts, posting career highs in games played (78), goals (eight), points (22) and average TOI (13:22). He also led the club in penalty minutes, with 59.

Brown had cemented his spot as a regular during last year’s playoffs, when he played in 24 of Tampa’s 26 playoff games — so, if he’s out for any length of time, his absence will be noticeable.

Tampa Bay is already dealing with injuries to captain Steve Stamkos (vascular surgery) and Anton Stralman (broken leg).