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The Florida Panthers lost their third game of this nine-game homestand Thursday night, as the New York Islanders took care of business in a tightly-contested affair.
This was the second straight game the Florida Panthers scored just one goal, but also the second straight game the power play was held scoreless. Going zero for three for the second straight game on the man advantage shows that the Panthers are really struggling to adapt to a new power play philosophy on a consistent basis.
On the other side of special teams, the Cats weren’t much better. The Islanders scored their first two goals on power plays, with the Panthers clearly outmatched by Islanders’ power play coach Jim Hiller.
After a very tight first period looked to be going in with nothing to separate the sides, Frank Vatrano took an ill-advised penalty in the neutral zone. While the Panthers didn’t concede in the first, it set up New York to take advantage in the second.
They would do just that 49 seconds into the second. Devon Toews got space to shoot near the blue line and put the shot past Sergei Bobrovsky, who was being screened on the play, to make it 1-0.
Bobrovsky, who Joel Quenneville praised earlier Thursday morning, was yet again impeccable tonight. Bob won third star of the game, saving 27 of the 29 shots he faced, and similarly to Tuesday night, keeping the Florida Panthers alive.
Unfortunately for the 30-year-old Russian, the rest of the players kept digging a bigger hole. Vincent Trocheck tripped New York forward Anthony Beauvillier just three minutes after the first goal, and New York went back on the man advantage.
Similarly to the first power play, the Islanders would score again. MacKenzie Weegar made an ill-advised pass trying to clear the zone, which was seized upon by winger Josh Bailey. Bailey would deflect the puck to fellow winger Jordan Eberle, who had the primary assist on the first goal and would get the primary assist on the second.
Eberle, in one swift movement, turned, looked up, and passed the puck to Matt Barzal on the left side, who swept the puck in, leaving Bobrovsky with no chance, and just like that, 2-0 Islanders.
Florida wouldn’t just roll over, however, and eventually got back into the game. Michael Dal Colle‘s giveaway to Brett Connolly snapped the Panthers into high gear, with Mark Pysyk excellently picking out Mike Hoffman on the odd-man rush. Hoffman gave New York goaltender Thomas Greiss no chance, slotting it top shelf near side to make it 2-1.
This was Hoffman’s 12th goal of the season. Hoffman has been in a solid groove as of late, with five points (two goals, three assists) in his last four games. This one gave Florida a lifeline.
It was a lifeline that the Cats just couldn’t seem to take. Despite playing just as good as the Islanders were, despite getting multiple power-play opportunities, the Panthers yet again could not capitalize. A few fantastic saves from both goalies and an empty-net goal from New York Captain Anders Lee with three seconds to go polished off the third period, with Florida losing 3-1.
The loss makes it the fourth loss in the last six and puts Florida down to sixth in the Atlantic Division. Sure, the division is about as compact as any, but dropping four spots in the span of two games as pathetically as the Panthers have is something to be concerned with.
The team is trying to find the answer, but ultimately it might not be with this 22-man roster. If it was me, I’d start looking at players to bring up, to give a spark to this offense. It was on display tonight, the forward core looks flat and out of ideas.
Let me reiterate one thing, the Florida Panthers did not play a terrible game of hockey tonight. This is a very good New York Islanders team, and the Panthers were even, if not better than New York, in almost every major stat. The big one is power-play opportunities; Islanders go 2/4, Panthers go 0/3, New York wins 3-1.