Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:
With about seven minutes to go, Casey Cizikas would cash in off a great feed from Colin McDonald behind the net. That goal put the Islanders ahead for good and gave them a close win in what should have been a total blowout. But no matter how it happened, they got two points and leapfrogged the Rangers in the standings. The Islanders are now ninth in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the eighth place Winnipeg Jets.
The Islanders took early advantage of a shaky Panthers team, scoring twice in the opening frame. Kyle Okposo and Radek Martinek each scored within the final five minutes of the first period. From behind the net — a goal awfully similar to Cizikas’ winner — Frans Nielsen found Kyle Okposo streaking towards the net and Okposo buried it for his third of the year. Mark Streit fed Martinek at the point a few minutes later, and Martinek’s shot found its way through a couple of screens and past Scott Clemmensen.
Clemmensen, who has had a rough year with a 4.15 GAA and .858 save percentage coming into the game, actually got worse statistically by giving up four goals in the game and making only 21 saves.
In the second the Islanders got on the board early as Brad Boyes scored his eighth 33 seconds in the period. Tavares fed Boyes across the high slot and the puck was swatted by Brian Campbell, but directly onto Boyes’ stick, and Boyes finished the play.
The game turned in the third as the Islanders came out flat and allowed three goals in the fifth and sixth minutes of the period. Evgeni Nabokov’s five-period-plus shutout streak was broken by Flordia’s TJ Brennan. Marcel Goc and Mark Santorelli would add two more and bring what was a laugher back to square one. It never seems to come quite so easy for the Islanders.
But Cizikas’ winner would be the difference, and the Islanders now head into a tough week with 12 points out of a possible 16 in their last eight games. Next week the Islanders will play four in a row at home; Ottawa, Montreal, Pittsburgh and then the Panthers again next Sunday. Montreal and Pittsburgh both lead their divisons, while the Senators sit in fifth in the conference. The Islanders have a chance to make up more ground at home, but it is going to come against stiff competition.