TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 05: Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders makes a first period save against the Florida Panthers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 5, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
(Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders need to stay away from the silly penalties if they want to close out the Florida Panthers in the Qualifying Round.

The New York Islanders lost a crucial Game 3 to the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, but they still have the upper hand in their Qualifying Round series. One more victory would send the Isles into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the formula for doing so is simple.

Stay out of the penalty box.

Granted, this isn’t the most insightful hockey analysis, but it’s the truth. Entering the third period in Game 3, the Isles had all the momentum in the world. A late goal in the second period leveled the score and the Panthers were 20 minutes from elimination.

Instead of carrying that momentum into the third period and burying the Panthers, the Isles fell victim to costly penalties. It only took seven seconds for Semyon Varlamov to handle the puck outside the trapezoid, leading to a delay of game penalty. From that point, it only took 34 seconds for Florida to convert on the power play.

So far this series, the team that stays out of the penalty box wins. In Game 1, the Islanders committed two penalties to Florida’s four. In Game 2, New York took four penalties, but the Panthers doubled that total.

However, Game 3 was a different story as the Isles were hammered with five penalties that led to two power-play goals. That was the difference in the game and that’s been the difference all series. Win the battle on special teams and everything else will fall into place.

Big Names Must Step Up

So far, the Isles have had major contributions from a few guys. Anthony Beauvillier might be playing better than anyone else in this series. It feels like he’s always in the right place at the right time, causing headaches for Florida defenders.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau is proving that he was a solid trade deadline acquisition by Isles president Lou Lamoriello. Pageau’s two goals have come at crucial points in games and the little French Canadian is never afraid to mix it up out there.

The problem for the Islanders right now is that there are a few big names who have been noticeably quiet. Mathew Barzal is leading all non-defensemen in ice time this series, but he only has one assist in the series.

Captain Anders Lee has failed to register a single point in three games. Their line has been propped up by the scoring prowess of Jordan Eberle, but there’s no doubt that head coach Barry Trotz needs more from that top line.

Winning on the backs of second- and third-liners is possible in a short five-game Qualifying Round series, but in order for the Isles to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they need their best line to be their best line.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.