//Varlamov makes 27 saves as Islanders beat Panthers in NHL qualifier opener

Varlamov makes 27 saves as Islanders beat Panthers in NHL qualifier opener

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.

WATCH | Islanders win game 1 against Panthers:

Anthony Beauvillier tallied the game-winner in a 2-1 win for the New York Islanders in game 1 of their best-of-5 series against the Florida Panthers. 1:08

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.

WATCH | Panthers vs. Islanders series preview: 

In the final preview of this 10 part series, Rob Pizzo looks at a Panthers team trying to put a tough regular season behind them as they take on the Islanders.  1:10

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.

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