Kevin SchultzAfter a 6-1 drubbing at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, the Islanders looked as though they had rebounded nicely on Sunday in a matinee against the Florida Panthers. If you stopped watching after the second period, as the team did, the Islanders had a nice 3-1 lead in front of the home crowd. But that’s why they play sixty minutes.
The Panthers came up with four goals in the third period and made it look easy en route to a 5-3 victory. For the Islanders, it was their third straight home defeat where they blew a two-goal lead.
In what will likely be his last game at the Nassau Coliseum, Trade Target Thomas Vanek scored two goals for the Islanders to open the scoring in the first period. First, Vanek sniped a top corner shot from the slot over former Islander Tim Thomas’ shoulder. Later on in the period, Vanek scored a softie past Thomas as he threw a high shot at the net from the side boards.
The Islanders showed fire in the first period, too. Eric Boulton got in a fight with Krys Barch and Cal Clutterbuck did a great job getting under the Panthers’ skin. He did it so well that halfway through the first Clutterbuck drew two penalties on a single play, giving the Islanders a 5-on-3 advantage for the full two minutes. Jesse Winchester and Erik Gudbranson went to the box and the Islanders had shooting gallery on Tim Thomas, but weren’t able to break through. Vanek almost earned his hat trick on this power play with a shot from the slot that handcuffed Thomas, but the Islanders weren’t able to extend the lead. Despite facing 11 shots in the frame, Anders Nilsson wasn’t tested particularly hard.
The second period was much quieter especially for the first 18 minutes. Eventually the Panthers would break through as Lubomir Visnovsky made a poor turnover in his own zone. Coming the other way, Shawn Matthias pounced on a rebound in transition and got the visitors on the board. But the Islanders answered with Ryan Strome’s second career NHL goal only :59 later, taking a 3-1 lead to the third.
Then the wheels fell off. And the Islanders tried to walk across the river instead of caulking the wagon. And everyone got measles.
Less than five minutes into the third period Florida had already tied the game on goals Marcel Goc and Matthias’ second of the night. At the midpoint of the period Scottie Upshall charged hard to the net and put home a rebound to give Florida their first lead of the game. In the latter half of the third the Islanders took two penalties to give Florida a chance to seal the game and the Panthers came through, as Upshall would score again to make it 5-3.
The Islanders head out west this week for a trip through Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver. They’ll face off against the Jets at 8pm on Tuesday night. Either today’s game or Tuesday’s game will likely go down as the last one for Thomas Vanek and Andrew MacDonald in an Islander uniform. The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday and both players, after rejecting contract offers from the Islanders, are expected to be dealt. Rinse and repeat.