The New York Islanders fell to the visiting Florida Panthers 2-1 at the Barclays Center Wednesday night. It was the third straight loss by a 2-1 margin for the Isles who gave another uneven effort and fell short.
Roberto Luongo made 29 saves to earn the victory for the Panthers while Keith Yandle and Jason Demers scored the Florida goals. Nick Leddy managed the only tally for the Islanders while Thomas Greiss made 22 saves in a losing effort.
“We’ve got to find a way to win these games, especially against teams that are a few spots ahead of us,” admitted Isles captain John Tavares. “We’ve got to find a way to score some goals and get a win.”
The Islanders again failed to play a complete 60-minute game. They seemed flat in the opening six minutes of the game and looked lethargic for long stretches of the second period. The Isles turned their game up a notch in the final 12 minutes of the third period but were unable to score the tying goal.
“I don’t think we necessarily played our best game or the way we know how to play it,” Leddy added. “We had a tough time in the neutral zone tonight and we need to get back to just keeping it simple.”
The Panthers came out skating hard and controlled the early going. Keith Yandle gave Florida a 1-0 lead just 5:47 into the game when he put home the long rebound of a shot by Jared McCann. Two Islanders defenders had a chance to clear the puck but nobody got good wood on it and Yandle was able to beat Greiss to put the road team ahead early.
The Islanders turned the tide midway through the opening period and evened the game on Leddy’s sixth goal of the season at 10:47. Leddy beat Luongo on a screen shot while Casey Cizikas created traffic in front of the Florida crease. The Islanders outshot the Panthers 12-7 in the first period but failed to break the 1-1 deadlock.
The second period belonged to Florida from the beginning. The Panthers took the lead on Demers eighth goal of the season just 1:09 into the period. The Islanders were lucky to only give up one goal in the middle stanza as they were outshot 16-6 and didn’t seem like they were in the game for long stretches.
“It was probably the worst second period that we played all year,” Isles head coach Jack Capuano admitted. “We had no rhythm, no execution. Certain guys should have stayed in the room…In the second period, we had guys taking off and they were not factors in the game.”
Neither team seemed ready to start the third period. In fact, it took more than seven minutes for either team to register a shot on goal. The Islanders eventually began to apply pressure, but Luongo made several saves including stopping a Josh Bailey backhander midway through the third period and a strong scoring chance by Tavares in the final five minutes. The Islanders outshot the Panthers 12-1 but were unable to score the goal that would have sent the game to overtime.
The Islanders return to action Friday night when they travel to Florida for a rematch with the Panthers.
The Islanders were without defenseman Travis Hamonic who was listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He was replaced in the lineup by Adam Pelech who made his first appearance with the team since November 28. Stephen Gionta and Anthony Beauvillier were also scratches.
The Panthers were 0-for-1 on the power play in this game, the Islanders did not receive a chance with the extra attacker.
Official attendance was 13,529.
Before the game, the Islanders honored Hall of Fame broadcaster Jiggs McDonald who called his final game for the Islanders tonight. McDonald has called NHL games since 1967 when he broke in with the expansion Los Angeles Kings. He called Isles games during the team’s glory years including Stanley Cup wins in 1981, 1982 and 1983.