The Panthers were without Jaromir Jagr and Nick Bjugstad. But they had Roberto Luongo.
The 5-1 final belies how much Luongo's first-period performance influenced the course of the game. The Isles came out and dominated the period, killing off two Panthers power plays and outshooting Florida 19-2 but failing to convert on a late 4-on-3 power play of their own.
With that kind of missed opportunity, you had to fear the old narrative gut punch, and the Panthers delivered it at every turn. To wit:
- They scored just 1:51 into the second period on their first real pressure, signaling that the first period was but a distant memory.
- They made it 2-0 six minutes later, after a brilliant Aleksander Barkov backhand made Frans Nielsen and Travis Hamonic pay for misunderstanding each other while double-teaming behind the net.
- Just when the Isles got one back five minutes later via Brock Nelson (who had a team-high seven shots), the Panthers needed all of 20 seconds to restore their two-goal lead at 3-1. Yeah, felt like that.
- Down two goals, the Isles may have thought they could really take it to the Panthers in the third, and Jack Capuano mixed the lines a bit (Josh Bailey to line one in Nelson's stead, reforming the Leddy-Boychuk band back together). Instead Vincent Trocheck made it 4-1 just 1:23 into the third.
- Adding to the stomach-punch of this night, every Islanders skater had at least one of their 34 shots on Luongo...except John Tavares, who was checked tightly at even strength and looked short of ideas on the power play.
A shorthanded empty-netter by Jonathan Huberdeau finished the bookkeeping with under four minutes left. Jaroslav Halak was not good (four goals on 16 shots. Sixteen shots!), and the Isles got worse rather than better as the game went on, but this one was won by Luongo in the first and some opportunistic offense by the Jets early in the second. But considering some of the performances they've gotten from their own goalies and special teams during their now-broken 10-game run, it felt like they were due for a snakebitten night. Oh, were they due.
The loss combined with a Rangers win drops the Islanders back into third place in the Metro just as soon as they climbed out of it. Time to start another streak.
It was like this. (via War-On-Ice)
The Isles now hit the road Thursday and Saturday in Colorado and Arizona before finishing the pre-Christmas run at home against the Ducks next Monday.