Florida Panthers

Panthers’ season over after another double OT loss to Islanders

Florida goalie Roberto Luongo reacts to the Islanders' 2-1 win in double-overtime.

Roberto Luongo made 49 saves in a losing effort as Florida's season ends with a 2-1 loss in double-overtime to the Islanders.
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Roberto Luongo made 49 saves in a losing effort as Florida's season ends with a 2-1 loss in double-overtime to the Islanders.

The Panthers may have had their best regular season in history yet that doesn't seem to matter much now.

Not by looking at the depressed faces in their locker room late Sunday night.

John Tavares scored his second of the game 10:41 into double overtime as the New York Islanders ended Florida's season with a 2-1 victory at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, taking their opening-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

"It was a good season, we took a huge step but right now it's just disappointment and hard to think of anything else,'' said Roberto Luongo, who made 49 saves in the loss.

"It was tight, there wasn't a lot of room out there. Their goalie played well and I was trying the best I could to match that and give my team a chance. It's unfortunate we lost all three games in overtime. That's a tough one there."

Roberto Luongo made 49 saves in a losing effort as Florida's season ends with a 2-1 loss in double-overtime to the Islanders.

Had the Panthers won, Game 7 would have been Tuesday in Sunrise.

Instead, the Islanders win the best-of-7 series in six games and move on to play Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"We counted on Luongo way too much,'' said Vincent Trocheck, who had a chance to ice the game in the final minute before Tavares scored with 53.2 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

"I know he's a world-class goaltender, but you can't rely on just your goaltender to win games for you. Two games in a row we didn't score more than a goal. That's on us.''

The series win was the first in the playoffs for the Islanders since beating Jaromir Jagr's Pittsburgh Penguins way back in 1993 -- the postseason before the Panthers had even played their first game.

The Panthers haven't won a playoff series since beating Jagr's Penguins in the 1996 Eastern Conference finals.

Jagr, who goes into the offseason a free agent and without a goal in his past 37 postseason games, had a chance to win it in the first overtime but was stuffed by series sub-hero (Tavares had five goals) Thomas Greiss.

The Islanders' goalie made 41 saves as he handed the Panthers their eighth consecutive postseason overtime loss dating to 1996.

Greiss had a hand in three of those in this series with the final two games going to double overtime.

"It's a playoff game and you play safe, defense first and the both goalies played great,'' Jagr said. "It's frustrating [not scoring] but ... I'm going to fight to the end. It was close, I thought we had it with one minute left, we were so close to getting the empty net. Maybe that's what this team needs to move higher next year.''

Gerard Gallant speaks to the media after Florida's season ends with 2-1 loss to Islanders in Game 6.

The Panthers appeared to be well on their way back home to play just the third Game 7 in their history yet the Islanders crushed those hopes late in regulation before putting the hammer down in the second extra session.

Florida led 1-0 going into the final minute of play yet Tavares -- the New York captain -- kept things going by knocking a loose puck past Luongo with 53.2 seconds left as New York goalie Thomas Greiss sat on the bench.

With the empty net, the Islanders charged up the ice as the clock starting running down under a minute.

Nick Leddy brought the puck up ice with Nick Kulemin firing a shot that Luongo made the initial save on.

Luongo lost sight of the puck as he lay on the ice.

It was sitting behind him, all alone, and Tavares swooped in and swept it through.

Moments before, the Panthers had a good scoring chance into the empty net as Trocheck and Reilly Smith were both tripped up yet didn't draw penalties which in all likelihood would have ended things much, much sooner.

Should a tripping call have been made?

"Yeah, but it wasn't, so what do you do?,'' coach Gerard Gallant said when asked. "Obviously, you know, if they thought they would have scored on the other end they would have called it. It's a tough call, it's a fast game. It wasn't much but the game would have been over. It's tough to swallow.''

In the first 59 minutes, Luongo stopped the 31 shots on goal as the Islanders took aim 68 times during regulation.

Luongo made 18 saves in overtime but couldn't get to No. 19 as Tavares followed up his own shot by corralling the big rebound and wrapping around the goal cage, stuffing the puck through.

"It's disappointing and there's not much you can say,'' Luongo said. "It's always tough when your season ends when you don't want it to.''

Despite watching the Islanders turn the tables on Florida and carry the pace of play for much of the first period, the Panthers grabbed their fifth 1-0 lead of the series with 1:02 left in the period.

Jonathan Huberdeau notched his first goal of the period as he drove through the slot and fired up a shot from 45 feet out while being dragged to the ice by Travis Hamonic.

The puck clipped Leddy and zipped past Greiss, however, and the Panthers had the lead, one they would hold until the final minute of regulation.

Florida, as has been the case throughout the series, had plenty of chances just couldn't find much room against Greiss -- the former Isles backup who took over when Jaroslav Halak was hurt last month.

Greiss, who beat the Panthers in two previous overtime sessions this series, made 29 saves through regulation and stopped 12 in the two overtime periods.

The game went 90 minutes 41 seconds to become the third longest in franchise history. Florida's 2-1 double-overtime loss which ended Saturday morning went 96 minutes and its loss to Colorado in the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals lasted 104:31.

"We felt like we carried the play and the momentum for the better part of the series,'' Erik Gudbranson said as the Florida locker room cleared out and equipment manager Chris Scoppetto pulled down name plates off stalls and assistant Chris Moody packed up bags to take home on Monday.

"But we lost. We had the game on our stick on a number of occasions and unfortunately we didn't get it done. It's been a privilege to play with these guys. It's an exciting group for years to come. If there's a positive, it's that. But this stings.''

▪ Jagr, as he has earlier in the season, wouldn't say whether he was coming back to the Panthers. It's thought the Panthers will talk to him about a new contract soon -- if not Sunday night.

"If I come back, I know I have to be ready, practice differently," he said. "I want to play that's for sure and I'll be more ready, that's for sure."

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