The Florida Panthers made the most of their last regular season visit to Long Island, beating the soon-to-be Brooklyn-bound New York Islanders 4-2 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum last night. "Big" Jimmy Hayes scored twice and backup goaltender Al Montoya made thirty-two saves to power the Cats to the much-need road win.
Anders Lee scored just 1:44 into the game to quickly put the Panthers behind the eight ball. Lee slammed home his 14th of the season to finish off the pretty passing of Josh Bailey and John Tavares.
Hayes pulled the Cats even with a nifty deflection of Nick Bjugstad's centering pass from the side boards 2:59 later. Jussi Jokinen picked up the secondary helper for this team-leading twenty-third assist.
Each team would finish the opening frame with 12 shots on goal, but Montoya and counterpart Jaroslav Halak would keep the game knotted up at one.
The Panthers took the lead early in the second when Tomas Fleischmann found Erik Gudbranson barreling into the Islanders' zone. Gudbranson solved Halak with a backhander along the ice for his third goal of the season. Brandon Pirri also collected an assist on the play.
Almost immediately after the goal, a too many men on the ice call would put New York on the power play and Lee would make the sloppy Panthers pay. The 24-year-old rookie tipped home Travis Hamonic's shot/pass for his second of the night.
Hayes would see Lee's power-play strike with one of his own just 2:10 into the final period. Aaron Ekblad fed Bjugstad for a blast and Hayes was there to clean up the mess in front for his fifteenth goal of the campaign.
Montoya turned aside all eight Isles shots in the third and Pirri scored into an empty net from Jonathan Huberdeau with 23 seconds left to clinch the game, ending the three-game, New York area road trip on a happy note.
The win pulled the Panthers within seven points of the idle Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Cats return home for games against Western Conference toughies Los Angeles, Nashville and Anaheim. Here's hoping this homestand goes a lot better than the last one did.
Flotsam & Jetsam
- The win was Al Montoya's first since a January 9th decision over the Flames in Calgary. Nice job by the "Big Cubano" in giving the Cats a quality start with Roberto Luongo getting a much-needed night off.
- Brandon Pirri remained red-hot, scoring his 5th goal in the last 6 games. I really don't want to see Pirri or Hayes in the press box anymore. Enough with that already.
- Jaroslav Halak wound up with 26 saves, including nice stops on Dave Bolland and Derek MacKenzie. The stop on MacKenzie's shorthanded breakaway came right before Lee notched his second goal.
- Tomas Fleischmann returned to the lineup and finished with a team-leading 5 shots on goal in addition to his helper on Gudbranson's goal.
- John Tavares played in his 400th NHL game. The Cats did a solid job in holding Tavares to just 2 shots and an assist.
- Aleksander Barkov was quiet offensively, but did win an impressive 8 of 11 draws and blocked 3 shots.
- Let Lighthouse Hockey guide you ashore from the choppy seas of the interweb for more Cats - Isles.