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Islanders keep playoff hopes alive with 3-2 win over Panthers

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period to help lift the New York Islanders past the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Thursday night.

“He was stellar,” Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock said of Varlamov. “He made huge saves in big moments, he played the puck well and he looked really solid back there and was a key part of that win.”

Pulock and Mathew Barzal also scored and Casey Cizikas had two assists for New York, which had lost six of its last seven and dropped in the Eastern Conference wild-card standings.

“The key was the start of the game,” Islanders coach Patrick Roy said. “We knew they were going to come out fast and I thought we played really well at the beginning of the game and (Varlamov) made some big saves for us, so it was a team performance.”

Despite the loss, the Panthers still clinched a playoff spot when Detroit lost to Carolina.

Aleksander Barkov became the first player in Panthers history to reach 700 points with the franchise with his second-period goal. Vladimir Tarasenko and Aleksander Barkov also scored and Anthony Stolarz made 21 saves for Florida, which has lost eight of nine.

The Panthers sit two points behind Boston with one game in hand for the top seed in the Atlantic Division.

“It’s always nice,” Barkov said. “Last year, it came right before the last game of the season, so now we have some more breathing room. But, of course, we have a lot of work to do and we need to be a little better than the last few games, for sure. So we’re going to learn and move on.”

New York is four points behind Washington for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a lower-body injury.

UP NEXT

Islanders: Visit Tampa Bay on Saturday night.

Panthers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

By COLBY GUY
Associated Press

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