The Florida Panthers defeated the New York Islanders by a 3-2 final score in front of 15,828 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida on Saturday night.
The Panthers completely controlled play through the first period, outshooting the Islanders 14-to-10 and holding the puck in New York’s zone for what seemed like the greater part of the period. A familiar speed bump reared its ugly head with less than a minute to play, when Brock Nelson took the bouncing puck off the boards and slid it between Mark Pysyk’s legs and past Roberto Luongo’s glove side with just 22 seconds remaining for a 1-0 Islanders lead. Calvin de Haan (5) and Jason Chimera (4) earned assists on the play.
Florida continued to dictate the pace of play through the second period, taking 14 shots on goal to just seven for the Isles. Somehow, New York took a 2-0 lead when Nick Leddy buried his third marker of the season past an arguably interfered with Luongo at the 9:54 mark. The interference was so evident, apparently, to Florida coach Gerard Gallant, that he used his coaches challenge so Toronto would take a closer look. No matter, though. The folks making the big bucks at the NHL’s replay center decided that the goal would stand. John Tavares (7) and Josh Bailey (6) were awarded assists on the ill-gotten power play booty, and Gallant would forfeit his only challenge.
The lack of a remaining challenge for Gallant did not come into play, but at the 14:53 mark of the second period, the Panthers had a goal negated after Islanders coach Jack Capuano issued a challenge of his own, alleging that Jaromir Jagr had interfered with Jaroslav Halak. The play was overturned, much to the delight of the home crowd.
The Panthers continued to outwork and outshoot the Long Island interlopers in the third period, outshooting the Islanders 11-to-4 through the final regulation frame. The game appeared to be headed down the inexorable path of “moral victory,” when Kyle Rau finally got the Cats on the board at the 8:56 mark with his first career NHL goal. The marker came on Florida’s 35th shot of the game, when Rau tucked home his own rebound on the play. Michael Matheson and Derek MacKenzie were each awarded their third assist of the season on the goal.
It really didn’t seem to be enough, though. Especially when the Panthers went shorthanded at the 17:11 mark when Keith Yandle was called for hooking Tavares. The Panthers successfully killed it off, and changed goaltenders from Luongo to James Reimer (Reimer played for 0:20 in the final minute of the game before getting pulled). With just 14 seconds left in regulation, Jonathan Marchessault tallied his eighth goal of the season past a bewildered Halak. The Isles netminder got most of the puck, but it trickled just past the goal line to even it at two and send the two clubs to bonus hockey. The helpers went to Aleksander Barkov (6) and Yandle (8).
The extra frame followed a familiar pattern, with the Panthers outworking the Islanders and taking four shots on goal to zero for New York. The Cats held onto the puck for most of the period. At one point, the Cats enjoyed an uninterrupted four-on-three power play which forced the Islanders to suffer through an extended duration without possibility of a line change. When the Isles finally cleared the puck, it bounced off the linesman which kept the tired penalty killers out on the ice for an additional 30 seconds. Denis Malgin ended the affair at the 4:14 mark on a redirection of a Vincent Trocheck (3) slapshot from the point for his third career NHL goal. Matheson got his second assist of the night on the play, and fourth of the season.
Captain D’s and Long John Silvers
- Rau’s goal happened in his 18th NHL game, and came on his 24th shot. Look for his 4% shooting percentage to only get better from here.
- MacKenzie (nine-of-11), Trocheck (14-for-23), and Marchessault (three-for-four) all helped the Panthers to a 59% success rate in the faceoff circle on the night.
- The Islanders blocked 27 shots to just 11 for the Panthers, led by five each from Thomas Hickey and de Haan, and four from Johnny Boychuk. It makes Florida’s 43-to-21 edge in shots-on-goal all the more impressive. Jason Demers paced the Cats with three.
- The two clubs combined for 54 hits, 31 by the Islanders. Nick Leddy had five and Casey Cizikas had four for the bad guys, while Alex Petrovic led Florida with four of his own.
- Luongo stopped 19-of-21 shots altogether, and is now 5-5-0 for the season. Now with 441 career wins, he stands six short of all-time fifth place Terry Sawchuk and 13 behind fourth-place Curtis Joseph.
- Halak played a heck of a game, and was a brick wall for the first 51 minutes, stopping the first 34 shots he faced before allowing goals on three of his last nine shots-against.
Who wants to be a hero? We’ll find out when the Panthers play next, on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada against the mighty Canadians and Carey Price.