The New York Islanders closed out their home season with a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers at the Nassau Coliseum Tuesday night. An enthusiastic crowd of 15,922 chanted, “We want playoffs!” as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Michael Grabner scored twice for the Islanders while Mark Streit, Radek Martinek and Matt Moulson each scored once. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 26 saves to earn the win.
“It wasn’t one of our best games by any means,” admitted Isles Coach Jack Capuano. “I thought Nabby played a great game tonight. We tried to establish our forecheck and sticks, and be resilient on pucks tonight. I thought we did that, but there were times where we didn’t. We found a way and that’s the important thing.”
The Islanders came out quickly and scored the first three goals of the game. Moulson scored on a double deflection off a nice pass by Thomas Hickey which Matt Martin got a piece of first.
The Islanders took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play and cashed in twice, once on a goal by Mark Streit at 13:59 followed by a breakaway goal by Grabner off a long pass by Andrew MacDonald at 16:47. The Isles led 3-0.
The Panthers got on the board and closed to within two goals when Dmitry Kulikov scored on a power play with just 1:48 left in the first period.
The old Islanders may have pouted and been effected by the late goal, but the new Isles came out strong in the second period. They scored two goals within 14 seconds to take a 5-1 lead and all but put the game away.
First Radek Martinek scored on a hard one-timer from the point set up by a nice pass by Jessie Joensuu who curled just inside the blue line and delivered a perfect pass. Then, Grabner intercepted a clearing attempt and backhanded the puck past Panthers’ starter Jacob Markstrom who was then pulled from the game and replaced by Scott Clemmensen.
The Islanders got a bit sloppy for the rest of the second period, allowing Florida too many scoring opportunities but Nabokov was equal to the task and allowed only one goal the rest of the way, a tally from in close by Marcel Goc.
The game got physical at times and messy at others, but the Islanders had little trouble maintaining their three-goal lead. The biggest scare came late in the game when a Panthers’ player crashed into Nabokov after being checked by Lubomir Visnovsky. Nabokov was down on the ice for several minutes and appeared shaken up but was able to finish the game.
“We came out strong, especially in the first 10 minutes,” Grabner said. “It was not our best effort, but we scored some timely goals, which kind of threw their game off. We got the two points, that’s what matters, but we definitely have to be at our best going forward.”
The win, coupled with the Rangers loss to Philadelphia, put the Isles three points ahead of both the Rangers and Winnipeg Jets in the race for the seventh and eighth playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Now the Islanders head to the road for their final five regular season games. Islanders tickets for these and other games are available.
Gordie Howe attended the game in the press box along with his son Marty.
Former Islanders GM Bill Torrey was also in attendance. Torrey now works for the Panthers organization.
Prior to the game, Bob Nystrom appeared and gave the Bob Nystrom Award to Isles’ forward Matt Martin. Evgeni Nabokov was given the media’s Good Guy Award.
There was a moment of silence prior to the game for the victims of the bombing at the Boston Marathon.
The Islanders have now allowed two goals or fewer in nine consecutive games.
Isles forward Casey Cizikas left the game in the second period with an upper body injury and did not return.