NEW YORK — After a tough overtime loss two nights earlier, the Florida Panthers were focused on picking up their defensive intensity in Game 4.
Alex Petrovic scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period and the Panthers beat the New York Islanders 2-1 on Wednesday night to even their first-round playoff series at two games apiece.
“What we talked about was making it real tough to score goals against us,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “Don’t give up second chances, don’t give the (John) Tavares line second and third chances. It was about working hard and playing our game and I wanted to make sure our guys played aggressive.”
On the go-ahead goal, Petrovic got a pass from Derek MacKenzie up high near the middle, slowly skated to the right and fired a shot into the top left corner past Greiss to put the Panthers ahead 2-1 at 9:25 of the third.
“MacKenzie made a nice play to me, found me open,” Petrovic said. “The first guy that came at me, I waited him out a little bit. He just went by and that’s when I slid it by (Greiss).”
The Panthers got their first playoff road win since April 17, 2012, against New Jersey in Game 3 of the first round.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven series is Friday night in Sunrise, Florida, and Game 6 will be Sunday night back in Brooklyn.
Tavares had his third goal of the series for New York, and Thomas Greiss finished with 27 saves.
“You are not going to win many games when you score one goal and the same guys score,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We didn’t create much. We got one line (Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen) creating all of our offence right now. We have to find a way like we did in Florida when we had secondary scoring and the other night here when we had secondary scoring. If not, it’s going to be tough.”
The Panthers nearly scored with 9:15 left in the second when Jonathan Huberdeau had a breakaway and his shot was stopped by Greiss. Huberdeau slid into Greiss and the puck was knocked loose and went over the line. No goal was called on the ice and the play was reviewed and the call was upheld. Gallant was upset over the non-goal and used his challenge. After a lengthy review, the non-goal call was upheld again, much to the delight of the home crowd.
“I still don’t understand it,” Gallant said. “I don’t know what the rule is exactly, and they tried to explain it to me. I thought it was a good goal. My video guy was telling me, ‘It looks like a good goal to me.’ … I challenged it, and obviously it didn’t count.”
About 90 seconds after play resumed, the Islanders’ Josh Bailey jammed a puck out of Luongo’s pads and across the line, but the officials waved it off because the whistle had blown.
The Panthers finally got on the scoreboard first late in the second period. About a minute after the Islanders’ Matt Martin was sent off for tripping Nick Bjugstad, Greiss slid to the left to knock away Jagr’s tip attempt. However, Jagr got the puck behind the net, skated around and fed Purcell, who fired it in as Greiss was getting back in position.
Jagr’s assist was his 122nd in the playoffs, breaking a tie with Al MacInnis and Glenn Anderson for sole possession of ninth place on the NHL list.
Penalties to Aleksander Barkov and Dmitry Kulikov gave the Islanders a 5-on-3 for 39 seconds in the final minute of the second. New York took advantage as Ryan Pulock passed to Tavares on the right side and the captain skated in and wristed a shot past Luongo to tie it with 16 seconds remaining _ just after the first penalty expired.
“We didn’t have a great start and we just didn’t make it hard enough on them tonight,” Tavares said. “We had a great opportunity to get what we wanted and we didn’t do it.”
The Panthers had a 10-5 advantage on shots in a tightly played first period.
The Islanders got one shot on goal on a power play about six minutes into the game as Okposo’s shot fluttered in the air and deflected up off Luongo’s mask.
“It was a huge character win for our club,” Luongo said. “We played the type of road game we wanted to play _ simple, hard-nosed, checking away, and we found a way to win. It’s a huge win for us.”
NOTES: Florida dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen, with Jakub Kindl replacing C Greg McKegg. Kindl, however, didn’t get in the game. … Jagr, who has not scored a goal in 35 consecutive playoff games, played in his 206th post-season game _ breaking a tie with former Devils goalie Martin Brodeur for 17th place in NHL history. … Tavares, who also has four assists in the series, now has 10 goals and 11 assists in his last 14 games.