NHL: Isles top Panthers, who clinch playoff spot despite loss

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Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored the go-ahead goal in the second period to help the New York Islanders rally for a 3-2 win over the host Florida Panthers on Thursday night in Sunrise, Fla.

It was just the second win in the past nine games (2-6-1) for the Islanders (31-26-15, 77 points). New York is four points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Panthers (46-22-5, 97 points) have lost six of their past seven games (1-5-1) but clinched a playoff spot when the Detroit Red Wings lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-0.

Florida, which is in the playoffs for the fifth straight season, remains two points behind the first-place Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division.

The Panthers and Islanders started their backup goalies.

Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves to earn the win.

Anthony Stolarz stopped 21 shots in a losing effort.

Panthers center Aleksander Barkov had one goal and one assist, reaching a milestone with 700 career points.

Vladimir Tarasenko had Florida’s other goal.

Ryan Pulock and Mathew Barzal also scored for the Islanders. New York got two assists from Casey Cizikas, a fourth-line center.

Cizikas’ offense was unexpected as he had just nine assists and 17 points in his first 59 games this season.

The Islanders had two goals disputed for supposed goalie interference. The first of those goals, by Pulock, was wiped out. The second one, by Pageau, was ruled a good goal despite contact on Stolarz.

Florida opened the scoring with 8:13 expired in the first period as Tarasenko, from the right circle, threw the puck at the net. Pageau then inadvertently deflected the puck in off his stick.

New York tied the score with 13:20 gone in the first as Pulock beat Stolarz cleanly, ripping his shot in off the left post.

Florida took a 2-1 lead with 6:32 elapsed in the second. After an Islanders turnover, Sam Reinhart rushed up the ice and slid a perfect pass to Barkov, who tapped the puck past Varlamov.

Two minutes later, the Islanders tied the score again as Barzal’s deflection of a Noah Dobson shot made it 2-2.

Then, with 9:18 left in the second, the Islanders grabbed their first lead of the game, 3-2, on Pageau’s controversial goal. Cizikas appeared to trip Florida’s Sam Bennett and then bump into Stolarz, but Pageau’s rebound goal stood.

–Field Level Media

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