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Panthers blank Islanders 3-0, close gap on Devils

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Red-hot Cats one point out of a playoff spot

NHL: Florida Panthers at New York Islanders Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers continued their torrid post All-Star Game pace, closing within a point of the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference with a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders.

Florida started slow, but turned things around as the first period wore on, taking the lead at 11:38 when Keith Yandle took a pass from Evgenii Dadonov at point and snapped a long shot through traffic by Christopher Gibson. The second assist on the goal went to Aleksander Barkov, who helped screen Gibson.

It only took the Cats 23 seconds to take advantage of an early second period double-minor for high-sticking Vincent Trocheck on rookie Mathew Barzal. Aaron Ekblad used the boards to send Jamie McGinn into the Islanders zone and Nick Bjugstad finished off his long cross-ice pass with a wrister from the right circle at the 1:47 mark. Gibson got a piece of the shot with his glove, but not enough to keep it out of the net. The goal was Bjugstad’s first power-play marker of the season.

Dadonov completed the scoring 4:22 later when he tracked down Yandle’s unsuccessful stretch pass and threw the puck towards the net looking for Bjugstad and had it bank in off the skate of defenseman Brandon Davidson. Goaltender James Reimer drew the second helper on Dadonov’s 24th of the season. Dadonov has had at least two points in nine of his past 16 games

In addition to playing set-up man and collecting just his third career point, Reimer stopped 32 shots to post his fourth shutout of the 2017-18 campaign. One of Reimer’s best saves came in the third period when he stoned Anthony Beauvillier with his left pad.

After peppering Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper with 47 shots on Saturday, the Panthers launched 41 at Gibson, whose 38 saves helped keep the game from getting out of hand. Not the prettiest of wins, however, the Cats did what was needed and move on to Toronto for Wednesday’s tilt versus the Maple Leafs with two key points. Florida still has a game in hand on the Devils, who host the Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow night in Newark.

Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)

Flotsam & Jetsam

  • James Reimer won his fifth straight start to match a career-high 20 victories and he also equaled his career-high of four shutouts. Both marks were set in 2012-13 when he was with the Maple Leafs.
  • The loss eliminated the Islanders from playoff contention. New York is just 2-10-4 in its last sixteen games.
  • Meanwhile, the Panthers improved to 10-3-1 this month, tying franchise records for wins and points (21) in March set in 2006. They have three games remaining to establish new highs.
  • Aleksander Barkov’s first period assist was his 75th point of the season, tops on the club. Barkov has 21 points (6G/15A) in his last 17 games.
  • John Tavares led all skaters with seven shots, but saw his five-game point streak come to end.
  • Tough guy Micheal Haley played in 200th NHL game. Haley recorded one shot on goal and one hit.
  • Lighthouse Hockey has the other side of Florida’s latest win over the Islanders. The Cats took five of six points from the Isles.

Condensed Game (courtesy of NHL.com)