Eberle scores 2 in Islanders’ 4-2 win over Panthers

TORONTO (AP) — Jordan Eberle scored twice, including the go-ahead goal, and the New York Islanders rallied to a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers and take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five NHL preliminary round playoff series on Tuesday.

Ryan Pulock and Matt Martin also scored, and Semyon Varlamov stopped 26 shots in a game New York overcame a pair of one-goal deficits.

Mike Hoffman had a goal and assist and captain Aleksander Barkov also scored for Florida, which is one loss from going one-and-done in the playoffs for a fifth consecutive time.

The Panthers have advanced past the playoffs’ opening round just once in franchise history, in 1996, when Florida reached the Stanley Cup Final before being swept by Colorado.

Florida is making its first playoff appearance since 2016, when the Panthers were eliminated by the Islanders in six games.

Florida finished 10th in the East and qualified for the playoffs, which were expanded to include 12 teams from each conference after the coronavirus pandemic cut short the regular season in mid-March.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 30 shots, and had little chance on Eberle’s go-ahead goal with 3:33 left in the second period.

Set up in the left circle, Eberle patiently waited for defenseman Brady Keeper to go down and attempt to block the shot. Eberle took a step into the middle to avoid Keeper, and caught Bobrovsky leaning before snapping a shot into the open left side.

Pulock, who also assisted on Eberle’s first goal, tied the game at 2 with a power-play goal with 6:12 remaining in the second. Pulock blasted a shot from the top of the left circle, which somehow sneaked in under Bobrovsky’s left pad.

The Islanders avoided a major scare 8 1/2 minutes into the third period, when leading scorer Mathew Barzal crashed heavily and awkwardly into the end boards after getting a shot off and being shoved from behind by Florida’s Frank Vatrano. Barzal got up slowly, and after being attended to by a trainer, but returned for the next shift.

Eberle sealed the victory with New York’s second power-play goal of the game with 9:31 left, when Anthony Beauvillier’s shot from the left circle banked in off Eberle’s shin.

The Islanders, who beat Florida 2-1 in the opener Saturday, have won six straight meetings — including the regular season — against the Panthers going back to a 4-2 loss on Nov. 10, 2018.

The Panthers struck first 11:16 in, and just as Beauvillier stepped out of the penalty box after serving a slashing penalty.

Jonathan Huberdeau held the puck in the left corner, and slipped a pass to the high slot to Hoffman, from where he snapped a low shot that sneaked in through a crowd and past Varlamov’s legs.

Martin tied the game at 1 at the 6:12 mark of the second period, before the Panthers responded with Barkov’s power-play goal 1:42 later.

NOTES: Islanders D Johnny Boychuk did not play after being shouldered to the head by Mike Matheson in Game 1. He was replaced by Andy Greene. … The Panthers made two changes from Game 1, with C Aleksi Saarela in for C Dominic Toninato, and D Brady Keeper in for D Riley Stillman. … The teams’ first four meetings in 2019-20 took place in four different arenas, including Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoff hub. The teams also met in Florida’s BB&T Arena, and the Isles’ two homes, Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center.

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Game 3 is Wednesday at noon EDT.

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