In a back-and-forth contest where the Florida Panthers held the lead on three separate occasions, it was the New York Islanders that ultimately claimed a 5-4 victory in Game 1 Thursday night.
After finishing the 2015-16 regular season on a hot streak, John Tavares carried that momentum into this series in a big way with a goal and two assists. Ryan Strome had a helper too and netted the game-winning goal.
The Islanders offensive depth extended beyond that though as Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen each contributed a goal and an assist. Meanwhile, defenseman Travis Hamonic made his return from a knee injury and finished with an assist in 24:52 minutes of ice time.
On the Panthers side, Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen did their best to keep Florida in this one. Smith found the back of the net twice and had an assist while Jokinen scored a goal and registered two assists. Teddy Purcell, who was acquired from Edmonton during the 2015-16 campaign, scored the series opening goal just 1:55 minutes into the contest.
For the Panthers and Islanders, this series is about ending a lengthy and painful stretch of the team’s history. The Islanders haven’t won a playoff series since 1993 and Florida’s drought dates back to 1996. One of those trends will end and the Islanders are now one win closer to it.