The new look Florida Panthers got off to rough start in their first-ever appearance at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, but a stellar first period from goaltender Roberto Luongo sparked the club to a big 5-1 victory over the New York Islanders.
The injury depleted and flu-addled Cats were outshot 19-2 in the opening twenty minutes, forcing Luongo to come up big time after time. His two best saves were with the glove, as he robbed Kyle Okposo and John Tavares with nice snares to keep his team even.
Reilly Smith notched the game's first goal 1:51 into the second period, firing a one-timer into a gaping net after taking a pass from Dylan Olsen. Jussi Jokinen picked up the second assist on Smith's tally.
Shortly after Luongo denied Casey Cizikas with some more fine glove work, the scrappy Cats added to their lead when Aleksander Barkov grabbed a Frans Nielsen turnover in front and sent a backhander past Jaroslav Halak for his seventh of the season at 7:25.
The Islanders would get on the board at the 12:73 mark to halve the deficit. Brock Nelson capped off a rush with a tidy deflection of Marek Zidlicky's centering pass. Luongo got a piece of the puck, but could not prevent it from going in. Mikhail Grabovski was credited with the second assist on the play.
Aaron Ekblad fired home his seventh goal just twenty seconds later to put the Panthers back in control of the scoreboard. The sophomore defenseman beat Halak through the wickets after gathering in a pass from Brandon Pirri. Barkov picked up his second point by collecting the secondary helper.
Florida's offense clicked again via the one-timer with Vincent Trocheck ripping in the goal from the right circle to complete the set up work of Jokinen and Smith a 1:23 into the final frame.
Barkov would add this third point of the evening by assisting on Jonathan Huberdeau's shorthanded empty-netter that completed the scoring with 3:43 left in regulation. Huberdeau was awarded the goal after being pulled down by Taraves on a breakaway after Barkov blocked a shot to spring him.
Quite a night for the Panthers in borough of Brooklyn. Despite missing a plethora of key players, the rookie-laden Cats rebounded from one of the worst periods of hockey they've played this season to blow the doors off the Islanders over the final forty minutes, ending the home team's ten-game point streak. A key tilt against the New Jersey Devils awaits on Thursday. The Devils are two points ahead of the Cats in the Eastern Conference wildcard race.
Flotsam & Jetsam
- Jussi Jokinen's two-assist performance gave the veteran Finn 21 points, tying him with Jaromir Jagr for the team scoring lead. Jagr missed his third game of the season with the flu.
- The markers potted by Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck were their ninth of the season. That number tops the club in the goal-scoring department.
- Jaroslav Halak finished with 12 saves on the 16 shots he faced. Not the best of nights for the veteran netminder. Maybe he lost his edge while his team was absolutely dominating the Panthers in the first period.
- Corban Knight, making his Panther debut, acquitted himself well in his 7:46 of ice time. Knight went 6-of-8 in the face-off dot and finished the game with an even rating.
- Speaking of recalled Cats, Rocco Grimaldi continues to underwhelm. The pint-sized speedster didn't register a shot and finished with a -1 rating while centering Quinton Howden and Logan Shaw. Grimaldi was credited with one hit and went just 1-of-8 in the circle.
- Roberto Luongo made 33 stops and lowered his GAA to 2.29. Luongo is now 11-11-3 on the season.
- In addition to scoring Brooklyn's only goal, Brock Nelson led all skaters with seven shots on goal. He kept Luongo busy.
- war-on-ice has the fancy advanced stats stuff for you right here.
- Sail into the safe harbor of Lighthouse Hockey. The have the other side of last night's surprising Panthers' win.
Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)