Home ice has been kind to the Islanders against the Western Conference. We saw it against Edmonton, Calgary and Detroit in months past and recently against Los Angeles on Saturday. When the games have a bit more impact on the standings against Eastern opponents at home, the Islanders have faltered. With today’s loss against Florida they’re 0-2-2 in their last four home games against the east and are 7-11-3 in those situations on the year. For a team that is supposed to be making a playoff push — and the coach acted like it by bringing out the team’s best goalie of late on back-to-back days — the team didn’t respond as it should have.
The Islanders jumped out to an early lead, scoring on their first shot of the game (and not the other way around). PA Parentau fed Frans Nielsen with a great lead pass to set up a 2-on-1. Nielsen would bury it for his 10th of the year and third of the month. For Parenteau, it was his 38th helper, good for fifth in the league. That would be as good as it got the for Islanders, as that goal seemed to awaken the Panthers from a mid-day nap.
Florida would answer later on in the first off a face off. Marcel Goc won an offensive zone face off cleanly back to Tyson Strachan who beat Evgeni Nabokov cleanly from the point. It was the first of two goals from the face off, as Jack Skille would notch the Panthers’ fourth goal of the day in similar fashion. They were some rare lapses for Nabokov but he’s not the only to blame. The rest of the players on the ice seemed to hang out and watch what happened, while both draws were lost by Nielsen who otherwise wasn’t particularly bad on draws, 5-of-11 on the day. But to go back to the point of hanging out and watching, Keith has provided the video of Milan Jurcina on Skille’s goal which is of a very unflattering angle.
As talked about in the pre-game, today’s game was of some extra importance as this was one of the games that both the Islanders and Panthers had on the majority of the teams they are competing with at the tail end of the East’s playoff picture. There’s no doubt that after such a physical game on Saturday, the Islanders didn’t have quite the same energy today. Things are only going to get tougher, as they have five games in the next nine days. Including the past week, it’s a tough stretch of 9-in-15.
Next up is a long flight to Winnipeg for a game on Tuesday and on to St. Louis for Thursday night. The Jets are yet another team in the mix with the Isles, ahead of New York by four points in the Eastern standings.