Varlamov stops 27 shots, Isles beat Panthers 2-1 in Game 1

TORONTO (AP) — Semyon Varlamov stopped 27 shots and the New York Islanders opened their best-of-five playoff series with a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Saturday in the NHL’s return following a 4 1/2-month break.

Anthony Beauvillier had the decisive goal by scoring on the power play 3:39 into the second period. The goal was scored a little over a minute after Florida’s Mike Matheson was penalized for a hit to the head on defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who did not return.

Islanders trade deadline addition Jean-Gabriel Pageau opened the scoring re-directing in Derick Brassard’s centering pass 12 minutes into the game.

Jonathan Huberdeau scored 23 seconds into the third period for Florida’s lone goal.

The Islanders entered the NHL’s 24-team expanded playoff as the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed, while the Panthers are 10th.

Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 26 shots in his first start since Feb. 29. Bobrovsky missed the Panthers’ final four games due to injury before the NHL season was paused on March 12.

The Islanders beat Florida for the fifth straight time, dating to the 2018-19 regular season, and continued keeping the high-scoring Panthers in check.

Florida finished this coronavirus pandemic-shortened season ranked fourth in the NHL in averaging 3.3 goals per game, but has now managed just five goals in four games against the Islanders.

Varlamov shook off a late-season slump in which he went 0-2-2 and allowed 18 goals in five appearances, and earned his 14th career playoff win, and first since with Colorado in 2014.

Boychuk had dumped the puck into the Florida zone and was crossing the blue line, when Matheson lowered his shoulder and caught the Islanders player directly in the head.

Boychuk lay face down on the ice before slowly getting up and headed directly to the locker room.

An officials’ review led to Matheson being issued a minor penalty for an illegal check. The Islanders capitalized on the ensuing power play with Beauvillier one-timing in Devon Toews’ pass into the right circle.

Huberdeau scored on an odd-man rush, in which he was allowed to cut in alone from the left wing and slip a shot under Varlamov.

NOTES: Panthers’ Joel Quenneville coached his 216th career playoff game, which ranks second on the all-time list. His 118 wins ranks third on the list, and remains five short of matching former Islanders coach Al Arbour, who ranks second. … This is the second playoff meeting after the Islanders eliminated the Panthers in six games of a first-round series in 2016. Florida has four players left on its roster from that series, Huberdeau, Matheson, Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad, while the Isles have 10. … The Islanders got the benefit of celebrating Pageau’s goal to the familiar home-arena sound of The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

UP NEXT

Game 2 Tuesday at noon EDT.

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