It was the first game back from the All-Star break. Last time the Islanders resumed play from a break, Mathew Barzal recorded five points en route to a 7-2 road victory. They would have no such breakout on their own ice tonight, in Jack Capuano’s return to Barclays Center.
Florida jumped out of the gate with an extra push in their skates and were remunerated with the first goal of the game, a tally - originally unnoticed by the officials - awarded to Michael Matheson after his blast from the point was deflected through Jaroslav Halak.
The Beauvillier-Barzal-Eberle line did its best to combat the feline surge of the southeast, and performed adequately in this role as the period wore on. Toward the end of it, the line orchestrated a sequence in the Panthers zone that buried them there for well over a minute. Just couldn’t slide one past third-string goalie Harri Sateri, playing in just his fifth NHL game.
The hope was that the strong play against the only team that gives up more shots than they do would weave seamlessly between the end of the first and the beginning of the second, such that they’d thread together a few goals along past the career minor leaguer in the crease whom they’d presumably have on a string. What a stitch.
Instead, the Cats regained possession of the game and registered another goal. Evgenii Dadonov drew Halak just far enough away from his pipes toward the left face-off dot that he was able to beat him around the right wing, the 28 year-old Russian rookie’s wraparound curl arriving a half-second before his outstretched competitor.
The outlook, already dim, was darkened further by Keith Yandle’s first of the season, another point shot that may have had its path to the net altered slightly.
In an effort to claw back, Adam Pelech restored the deficit to two goals, snapping a stick-bender around Sateri as he glided across the blue line. While the game’s only power play proved unfruitful for the home team, it assisted in establishing a precedent of offensive zone time for the remainder of the contest. Disappointingly, they still fell short of any points, permitting Jonathan Huberdeau to top it off with an empty-netter.
Before the game began, I joked with my family that if history were any indicator, this third-string goalie of single-digit experience would shut them out. A harmless comment nearly became reality, prevented only by a bullet from Pelech.
Florida is the only team below the Islanders in the department of shot concession, and they didn’t take measures to exploit their inability to defend until it was too late, an all-too often refrain for this team in 2018.
A team that needs every win it can to make the playoffs cannot lose home games against bottom-feeders, especially when they have to travel and play better teams the next night.
Hold on to your hats, friends. The Islanders fly out to Tronna tonight for a road back-to-back against the well-rested Maple Leafs, idle tonight. Thomas Greiss will assuredly tend goal.