With a chance to grab control of the series, the Islanders never seized the day.
Light-scoring defenseman Alex Petrovic beat Thomas Greiss with 10:35 to go in the third period to break a tie and send the Panthers to a 2-1 win Wednesday night to even the series at 2, with Game 5 Friday night in Sunrise, Florida.
As they did in Game 4 a year ago against the Caps, the Islanders had a chance to grab a 3-1 series lead in front of their home crowd. But the Panthers were the better team from the jump, through another video review-filled second period and into the third.
Tied at 1 in the final period, the Panthers controlled the first half of the third, keeping the puck in the Isles’ end and forcing Greiss to stay sharp to keep it tied.
Petrovic waited to get two Islanders defenders moving and snapped a wrist shot past Greiss’ stick to break the tie. The Islanders got a power play with 3:33 left in regulation but could not beat Roberto Luongo, mustering only 26 shots for the game.
The Panthers grabbed the lead in the second period on the power play. The Islanders answered with the advantage to send Game 4 to the third period even, as Game 3 went.
After Matt Martin was called for taking down Nick Bjugstad in the neutral zone with 5:57 left in the second, the Panthers broke through. Greiss denied Jaromir Jagr in tight twice, but the 44-year-old Panther circled the net and fed Teddy Purcell for the power-play goal at 15:18 for the fourth straight Florida lead in the series.
Already on the power play in the closing minute of the period, Dmitri Kulikov was sent off for tripping Kyle Okposo to give the Islanders a two-man advantage for 39 seconds.
The Islanders didn’t convert with two men up, but it felt like they did. Aleksander Barkov was only two seconds out of the penalty box when Ryan Pulock drew two penalty killers to him with a shot fake and fed John Tavares, who snapped one over Luongo with 15.3 seconds to go to tie it.
As happened in the second period of Game 3, video review played a starring role on Wednesday.
With 9:15 left in the period and the game still scoreless, Jonathan Huberdeau thought he’d given the Panthers the lead as he drove the net on a partial breakaway. Referee Frederick L’Ecuyer ruled on the ice that Huberdeau pushed Greiss’ left pad, as well as the puck, over the goal line as Huberdeau fell with Pulock marking him. Huberdeau appeared to hurt his leg as he got tangled up with Greiss, and the NHL’s situation room initiated a review as Huberdeau hobbled to the dressing room.
Huberdeau was already back on the bench by the time L’Ecuyer announced that the no-goal call on the ice was confirmed. Panthers coach Gerard Gallant challenged the ruling, so L’Ecuyer went back to the headset and ruled no goal again, a nine-minute delay that also cost Florida its timeout.
The Islanders wanted a review only 90 seconds later when Josh Bailey’s second poke knocked the puck through Luongo’s pads and over the goal line. L’Ecuyer already had blown his whistle, however, and that play is not reviewable.
The Islanders were outshot 10-5 in a rough but scoreless first period, a small victory considering the Panthers had taken a lead within the first 4:32 in each of the opening three games.