If the first game of the New York Islanders' playoff matchup against the Florida Panthers is any indication, this has the makings of a wild and entertaining series.
After the visiting Islanders rallied to win Game 1, the Panthers won't have long to wait for their chance to even the series Friday night.
Paced by a goal and two assists from star John Tavares and some key saves late from Thomas Greiss in his first postseason start, New York overcame three one-goal deficits to win 5-4 on Thursday. The Islanders, who have dropped eight straight playoff series dating to 1993, prevailed despite being outshot 46-26.
"It wasn't our best game but we certainly found a way,'' Tavares said. ''We have to build on the win and know we can be better.''
Playing in place of the injured Jaroslav Halak, Greiss made 42 saves and was solid after Reilly Smith's second goal 6:56 into the third period brought Florida within a goal. The Islanders killed two of three penalties and scored on one of their two power-play chances.
''At the end of the day, we didn't quit and were resilient," New York coach Jack Capuano said.
"We talk about it goaltending and special teams all the time," Capuano added to the Islanders' official website. "I thought we did a pretty good job, (the Panthers) are a big team and they're fast and physical.
"They throw a lot of pucks on net from a lot of different angles. We were fortunate to get the win here."
Smith also had an assist and Jussi Jokinen added two with a goal for the Panthers, who were 27-0-2 when scoring at least four times in a game during the regular season.
"Made some big mistakes, but we did a lot of good things in the game,'' Florida defenseman Brian Campbell said. ''We've got to clean some stuff up. It's obvious things that we see. That's the frustrating part. I felt we had our game going (Thursday).''
Due to some scheduling issues with both teams' home arenas, they'll return to the ice Friday in a game that becomes more crucial for the Panthers. Making only its second playoff appearance in 15 seasons, Florida hasn't won a postseason series since defeating Pittsburgh in the 1996 Eastern Conference finals.
The Panthers fell about 2,000 short of a sellout Thursday, but will likely need a loud and involved crowd for Game 2. Florida went 8-4-2 in the second of back-to-back games during the regular season, but the Islanders were 9-3-3.
''We weren't expecting this to be a short series anyway,'' said Smith, who had five points in 12 playoff games prior to Game 1.
After recording a playoff career-high three points, Tavares has six goals and eight assists in 14 postseason contests. The Islanders captain was shaken up after being hit in the leg with a puck but said after the game that he felt fine.
"He was excellent for us," teammate Kyle Okposo said. "Obviously he's been great for us all year. "He wears the C for a reason. He showed it."
Okposo snapped a four-game playoff point drought with a goal and an assist.
Florida's Jaromir Jagr has gone 32 straight playoff games without a goal, and was held without a point while skating in his 203rd postseason contest.
Jokinen has seven goals and five assists in his last 12 playoff games.