The New York Islanders may be out of the playoff picture this season, but their youth-infused lineup continues to play enthusiastic and winning hockey in the season’s final weeks. Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist to pace the Islanders to a 4-2 win over the visiting Florida Panthers Tuesday night at the Nassau Coliseum. Evgeni Nabokov made 20 saves to earn the win.
”No one is happy with where we are,” Martin said. ”It’s a rough year and a year we’re not proud of, but to be going down the stretch with some wins and playing good hockey definitely feels a little bit better.”
The Panthers scored first on a shorthanded breakaway goal by Quinton Howden just 1:50 into the game. Defenseman Matt Donovan had trouble reaching a pass at the Florida blue line and Howden was off to the races.
The Isles bounced right back, however, evening the score just 45 seconds later on a shot from the right point by Travis Hamonic. The first period ended in a 1-1 tie.
Although the Islanders outhshot Florida 11-5 in the first period, coach Jack Capuano was not pleased with his team’s play in the opening 20 minutes. “We got off to really slow start, Capuano said. “It wasn’t a good first period for us. We talked about it after the first period, being more physical and I think the last 40 minutes were better.”
Bailey broke the tie when he put home a rebound from just in front of the crease at 11:18 of the second period. Matt Martin made it 3-1 Isles at 17:36 of the second period when banged home the rebound of a shot by Colin McDonald. Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen had difficulty with rebound control throughout the game and the Islanders took full advantage.
Then, Mike Halmo scored his fist NHL goal at 4:21 of the third period when he swatted his own rebound into the net in a baseball-like swing just to the left of the near post.
“It feels good,” Halmo said after the game. “It’s a weight off my shoulders and I’m pretty happy. I just swung for the fences and hit it in, happily. It took a few minutes afterwards sitting on the bench for it to settle in.”
The Panthers managed a power play goal in the closing seconds of the game to make the score 4-2. With the win, the Islanders are now 4-0-1 in their last five games.
“We’re all trying to work hard down the stretch,” Bailey said. “All those guys [rookies] have done a great job for us, from practice to games, they always give 110 percent, it’s paid off for us with a few wins here down the stretch and hopefully we can finish on a good note.”
The Islanders return to action Wednesday night when they travel to Ottawa to face the Senators.
Official attendance was 11,812
Prior to the game, Matt Martin was named the winner of the Bobby Nystrom Award. Nystrom was on hand to present Martin with the trophy which he has now won for three consecutive years. The award is given to the Isles player who best exemplifies leadership, hustle and dedication and is voted on by the fans.
Former Isles’ GM Bill Torrey was in attendance. Torrey now works for the Panthers organization.
Matt Carkner dropped the gloves twice in this game, once with Erik Gudbranson and later with Krys Barch.