The New York Islanders came back home after a long road trip for just their third home game of the season.
The Florida Panthers were playing on back-to-back nights, having a “players only meeting” after a loss at Madison Square Garden the night before, and looking for just their second win of the season.
Though the Isles were spotted a 2-0 lead, the Panthers erased that in the third and found what they were looking for in an overtime power play. Florida won, 3-2, having logged 13 shots in each regulation period and outshooting the Isles 41-22 overall.
It wasn’t exactly a miserable performance or effort from the home team, but it was faaaar from impressive or promising. Worse, it felt like something reflective of their overall talent level, indicative of what we might expect to see more of this season.
The first period was relatively uneventful, marked mostly by its only goal, which was both a good play and an oops.
A very dull, but pretty decent period for the Isles with a lot of shots from the right hand point. pic.twitter.com/HJEgaHw7lH— Carey Haber (@habermetrics) October 24, 2018
Brock Nelson was credited with the goal, deservedly so for how he pounced on a rebound, but it was actually put in on a reaction clearing attempt by Mike Matheson that went in off the back of Vincent Trochek. Nelson and the fans in the foreground at Barclays Center knew it right away, but play continued for a bit before Toronto rang and the horn sounded to stop play and confirm via a video review.
Second Period: Foreshadowing
The Islanders doubled their lead with an absolute beauty of a power play goal by Jordan Eberle, his first tally of the season.
Nick Leddy doesn’t get a point on the play, but his delicate and elusive zone entry would qualify as a third assist. He slipped the puck to Anders Lee, who quickly sent back to Mathew Barzal in the high slot. Barzal had a dangerous enough look from that spot that James Reimer had to play the shot, leaving Eberle with a clear lane to convert the one-timer served up on a tee by Barzal.
...but that was on the power play, against the run of play. The Isles were outshot 13-6 in the period, mostly through some mistakes and giveaways mixed with the ol’ bend-don’t-break Trotzy hockey. One of several dangerous Florida chances came after a rare howler of a giveaway by Barzal right to the left of Robin Lehner. But Lehner stood strong and gobbled up the chance. Lehner’s steady positioning overall helped calm the waters amid some scary moments.
Still, though they reached the second period with a 2-0 lead, they were pushing their luck and...
Third Period: Shadow arrives
The Panthers restored their position to threaten early in the third, converting after good power play work at 2:46.
Vatrano on the power play with Ladd off for a mindless slash. 2-1 #Isles with 17:14 left in the 3rd.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) October 25, 2018
They survived another penalty kill soon afterward, Matt Martin in the box on a “good” hook after a bad Scott Mayfield pass put Martin in an awful position..
But a great drive into the zone and around the net by Aleksander Barkov set up the equalizer. Barkov found Evgenii Dadonov in the slot, and his shot made it through Lehner and Nick Leddy.
The Panthers had yet another power play opportunity with five minutes left to go, Leddy going off for hooking . Nick Bjugstad close to the Isles net. The Isles were very thorough in killing that one off without much threat..but alas, it wasn’t their final kill.
Angry Ref Alert!
The Panthers were slow with the line change in their own zone with three minutes left to go, and referee Wes McCauley was having none of it. He called them for delay of game. Delay of game! Against a one-win team playing on the second night in a row.
But the Panthers’ anger and the Isles ineptitude helped Florida completely extinguish the Isles power play. To make things worse, Barzal took a hooking penalty on the backcheck while the shorthanded Panthers pushed.
So not only did the Isles waste this gift from the officials, they spent the final minute shorthanded and carried that over into OT, when it became the even more dangerous 4-on-3.
The Panthers cashed in, Mike Hoffman on a one-timer 33 seconds into overtime after a clean Valtteri Filppula faceoff loss.
The night was sprinkled with memories and reflections on Charles Wang, the longtime Islanders owner (most recently minority owner) who passed away Sunday. That included a pre-game recognition, and tributes throughout the night on the MSG broadcast.
Here’s former Islanders coach Jack Capuano, who also was coach of the Wang-owned AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers and is now an assistant on the Panthers bench:
MSG also ran a very heartfelt reflection from Garth Snow, recalling how their relationship blossomed when Snow’s brother was fighting cancer during his first training camp (as a goalie) with the team.
It’s interesting, with the dust cleared on the era where these men controlled the franchise’s fortunes, to get more insight into the human side of their relationship. It’s less interesting to watch an on-ice performance that is too reminiscent of so many of those years.