UNIONDALE, N.Y. – It was not the Islanders best effort late in a game, but five goals between the first and second period helped end the home portion of the team’s schedule on a high note.
“It wasn’t one of our best games by any means,” head coach Jack Capuano said after the game. “Like I told the guys after the game, we found a way to get it done… When we came out our power play executed early and we gave up a few more chances than we’d like to. But with that being said I give that team a lot of credit. They worked extremely hard tonight.”
And while the Islanders may have not looked their best down the stretch in the contest, as Capuano pointed out, they found a way to win.
“Tonight we were fortunate,” Matt Martin told reporters. “We got a bunch of goals early, and made it 5-1. But we kind of got away from our game plan and this is a good reality check to make us understand that we have to play our game for sixty minutes. If Nabby didn’t play the way he did this could be a totally different outcome.”
Evgeni Nabokov only gave up two goals to the last place Florida Panthers, but stopped 26 shots in the win. And his teammates gave him some goal support early on in the game.
The Islanders spent the first few minutes of the first period all over the Panthers, creating chances early on. Eventually 8:01 into the first Matt Moulson deflected the puck, from deep inside the slot, past Jacob Markstrom.
Special teams helped out a bit as well. After the Panthers saw Tyson Strachan take a bad cross-checking penalty, Erik Gudbranson was handed a high sticking double minor, allowing the Isles a five on three power play for 1:16.
Captain Mark Streit made them pay, scoring at the 13:59 mark to make it 2-0.
Michael Grabner scored moments later on the power play. Andrew MacDonald found Grabner behind the Panther defense, allowing him to go on the break away. Dimitry Kulikov did get the Panthers on the board late in the first period to keep
Florida somewhat in the game.
Radek Martinek fired a blast from the high slot at 3:19 in the second period to put the Islanders back ahead by three. And Michael Grabner got on the board for the
second time of the night, intercepting a pass right in front of the Florida net and backhanding it past Markstrom.
Marcel Goc would score several minutes later to cut it to 5-2, but that would be the last goal they scored.
However the rest of the second and third were not the best performances from an Islander squad that has been surging.
“We tried to establish our fore check, good sticks, be resilient on pucks tonight, and I thought we did that,” Capuano said. “But there were times that we didn’t. It wasn’t
one of our better games tonight, they know that, but we found a way and that’s the important thing.”
Unfortunately for the Islanders they didn’t escape the night completely unscathed.
Casey Cizikas left the game early with an upper body injury. Capuano said that he’s hopeful that the team will have a report on his status shortly. Josh Bailey also may have been banged up. He left the ice after the game limping and it was unclear what his status was after the game.
Now the team gets set to finish off the year on a five gam road trip that will take them across east. It is a trip they know will not be easy.
“It’s a big road trip,” Grabner said. “We’ll be playing some tough teams that are in the playoffs and are fighting for the playoffs the next couple of games. Every point matters from now on and…we have to finish off strong.”