Panthers Recap: Cats beat Islanders despite late-game jitters

That's right folks, David Booth was traded to the Vancouver Can... Oh.... Hang on. This is the game recap post, whoops. My bad...

On a night where the entire NHL was abuzz regarding the Booth trade, the current Panthers were suiting up to face off against the New York Islanders in their second meeting of the season. After two dismal outings against Buffalo and Washington in which the Panthers managed not to score a single goal, you could almost be sure Florida would come out swinging in this game. They sure didn't let the home crowd down, winning a bit of a nailbiter by a score of 4-2. The Cats dominated the stats in this game for the most part, but were stymied by Evgeni Nabokov, who looked absolutely sublime in net for the Isles.

However, another goalie we didn't expect to see showed up and wowed the crowd as well, and may be playing himself into a starting job.



Additional coverage at Lighthouse Hockey

 

1st

The Panthers came out and immediately put themselves in a tough spot with Scottie Upshall taking a penalty 22 seconds into the game. The Islanders captain Mark Streit managed to rip one past Jose Theodore, giving the Isles an early lead. That seemed to motivate Florida, as they responded strongly and dominated play most of the first period. The Panthers evened it up when Nabokov misplayed the puck behind his own net, giving Stephen Weiss a chance to feed Kris Versteeg, who didn't score on his initial shot but stuck with it and popped one in off the rebound. The Cats outshot the Isles 13-5 and outhit them as well, bringing a lot of pressure and good scoring chances against Evgeni Nabokov. Tomas Kopecky was also awarded a penalty shot but was unable to convert. Florida only got one shot on the man advantage in the first but were unable to convert on that as well.

2nd

Both teams came out with a good jump in the second, but Florida again looked like the better team, generating more shots early and playing a pretty solid puck possession game. The defensive play of the Panthers was very solid, forcing New York to shoot from the perimeter most of the time and jumping on rebounds before they could cause any issues. Compared to the last two games, the Cats clearly had a fire lit underneath them, as nearly every player on the ice skated hard and backchecked hard, a stark difference from the last two games. The Panthers got another chance on the powerplay and generated a ton of shots and puck possession, but were unable to beat Nabokov. The Cats fourth line cashed in shortly after though, with Shawn Matthias making some fantastic plays along the boards and feeding Matt Bradley for his first as a Panther. Unfortunately, shortly after that goal, Jack Skille takes a bad penalty in the offensive zone and the Isles evened it up off a nice redirection by John Tavares. The teams traded chances after that but no one could capitalize and went to the third tied 2-2. Cats had a major shot lead with a 24-10 advantage.

3rd

The Panthers again dominated play early in the period and nearly scored on a fantastic opportunity for Versteeg, but Nabokov got a piece, followed by the left post, and the game stayed tied. Nabokov was the difference the entire game for the Isles; this would have been a blowout if he wasn't as brilliant as he was. Theodore exited the game early in the period due to what was reported as an injury, and so youngster Jacob Markstrom was thrown into the game to finish the effort. About five minutes into the period, the Cats score yet another even strength goal(!!) with Tim Kennedy scoring his first of the season off of a great pass by Matthias. The Panthers continued to push the Isles throughout the period, but the Isles managed to draw a penalty, giving the Islanders another chance on the man advantage. Streit nailed the post and the Isles tested Markstrom, but were unable to convert. The Cats seemed to sit back a bit after that, which is generally their kryptonite, and after nearly getting scored on by a rocket by Tavares, the Panthers take a penalty late with Versteeg going to the box on a pretty questionable call. While on that powerplay, the Cats take yet another penalty with Matthias getting called for a slash while he was about to have a breakaway. Game over for the Panthers, right? Nope. Markstrom stood tall and stopped everything thrown his way, giving the Cats time until the penalties expired, and allowing Matthias to come out of the box and pot an empty netter, sealing this game in the books.

Observations

  • After seeing his performance against the Caps, and his relief action tonight, is there any doubt Marky is ready for prime time? The kid is just lights out and looks as though he's been doing this for years at an NHL level. His size and quickness are second to none and I really believe he'll end up supplanting Theodore as the starting goalie at some point this season. He's just too good to keep in the minors anymore at this point and would benefit from more NHL work.
  • Weiss was absolutely flying the entire game. Was it the David Booth trade? Did coach Dineen lay into the team after the last two losses? Is Weiss vying for the captaincy? Did he get into Theodore's case of Red Bull? Who cares, as long as he keeps skating, backchecking and working as hard as he did tonight. Weiss was the man.
  • Upshall had a much better game after his bad early penalty. He was hitting, shooting and often times in position to make plays. Unfortunately he had some great scoring chances he couldn't convert, but if he keeps up that kind of effort he'll definitely be rewarded soon.
  • I keep putting entries for Matthias in these post-game reports every game, gushing about how good he looks. Well folks, he looked even better this game, posting assists on the second and third goals, and just playing at the top of his game all night. His late high-sticking call was really not his fault; the slash was just a lighter whack at the opposing player's stick, and he got unlucky. He made up for it by sealing the game with a empty netter though. Matty deserve third line time or better.
  • Congrats to Bradley on his first as a Panther. The fourth line has been fantastic all season and continues to play great workman's hockey, cycling down low and wearing down the opposition's defense. Exactly what a fourth line should do. Oh yea, and Bradley had another fight tonight, and managed to not bleed again. I think he saves that for the road whites.
  • Congrats to Kennedy on his first of the season as well, off a great give-and-go with Matthias. Kennedy looked like he gained some confidence after his goal and started showing a bit of the offensive creativity and quick hands that make him a dangerous player. Good for him, as he may see more time with the big club now that Booth isn't wearing a Cats sweater anymore.
  • Dmitry Kulikov was third to Brian Campbell and Jason Garrison in ice time for the Panthers. It seems whatever mistakes or rough periods Kulikov has endured so far this season, he'll need to continue to endure them by playing top-two minutes the rest of the way. Remember, Kulikov started slowly last season and ramped up his play as the games passed by, so I would expect to see the same this season.
  • Nabokov might be the missing piece the Islanders need to get them over the hump of being one of those "almost ready for the playoffs" teams. They have loads of young talent, but still lack depth on the blueline, and Nabby could be their saving grace throughout the season if he can continue to play at a high level.

What's next? How about Jacques Martin's bumbling Canadiens on Monday night in Montreal? The Habs lost one in OT to the Leafs on Saturday, dropping them to 1-4-2 on the season, and Carey "Jesus" Price looks utterly pedestrian so far this season. We'll see what happens with Theodore's injury, but it could be Markstrom in net for Florida on Monday. Either way, I'm hoping for a win, because any team that beats a Jacques Martin team is just swell in my book.

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