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Islanders 3, Panthers 1 (EN): Sweeping Florida, the team and the state

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The Islanders haven’t lost to a team from the state of Florida this season and salvaged the three-game trip nicely.

NHL: DEC 12 Islanders at Panthers
The captain had himself an excellent game.

The Islanders wrapped up their three-game road trip through the south with a solid 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers tonight in Sunrise, Florida. It was no fluke, either. They played a great first period and pretty great second period, getting some goals from their power play and beating a penalty kill that came in only having allowed 11 power play goals all year.

They got contributions from Devon Toews, Mathew Barzal, and Jordan Eberle. Their captain and fearless leader, Anders Lee, got himself a Gordie Howe hat trick the hard way (all three elements came from hard work) and their goaltender du jour, Thomas Greiss, only allowed one goal. Another full team win, their first sweep of a trip through the state of Florida in six years, a season-sweep of the Panthers, and a solid end to a road trip (2-1-0) that started off with a bit of a dud in Texas.

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First Period: A Very Good Opening Period on the Road

The Islanders and Panthers played a fast, entertaining first period that went without a goal, and also about six minutes without a whistle at one point. But it was similar to Monday night against the Lightning, where they came out hard right away, unlike last Saturday against the Stars.

The Isles also killed off a chance for the strong Florida power play, earned when Johnny Boychuk gave Frank Vatrano a gloved punch. Vatrano returned the favor by taking a tripping penalty against Devon Toews with less than 20 seconds left in the period. It would carry over into the next frame.

Second Period: Power Play Breaks Out

But it didn’t carry over very far, thanks to Toews. The puck was dug out of the corner and it popped out to Toews at the blueline. He skated to the middle and threw it to Jordan Eberle at the opposite faceoff dot. And then Eberle threw it back to Toews for a one-timer that weaved through a lot of bodies and tipped off Bobrovsky before going in for a 1-0 lead early into the middle period.

The Islanders drew another power play a few minutes later and MacKenzie Weegar had a chance to clear but instead threw it to Toews at the blue line. Some quick touch passes, from Toews to Lee to Eberle to Barzal cross-ice in a span of two seconds got Bobrovsky flopping around and left Barzal with a wide open cage. It was the Islanders’ second power play of the game against a kill that had only allowed 11 power play goals all season.

The Islanders were buzzing after their two goals and were taking it to Florida, but the Panthers broke out the other way on a two-on-one that was finished off with a snipe by Mike Hoffman. Aside from cutting the deficit to one, it also gave the Panthers a little bit of life and they continued to press.

Later, Brian Boyle hit Adam Pelech late and hard enough to break Pelech’s stick and send him right down the tunnel for the rest of the second period. Lee, meanwhile, was furious and went right after Boyle, and the two big men tussled for a little while before being separated by the officials. Lee was given two, five, and ten for instigating and didn’t return to the game until the middle of the third—Pelech, for his part, was back for the third with a big scar on his chin.

Third Period: Locking It Down Barry Trotz Style

The Panthers carried some momentum into the third and the Islanders started the period a little lackadaisical, especially in their own zone. They tightened up a bit but Florida continued to control play. As the period progressed, it became apparent that the Panthers weren’t getting to the high-danger areas very frequently.

Thomas Greiss was there the one time they did, though. His biggest save was some highway robbery of Florida’s leading goal scorer, Brett Connolly, going from post-to-post on a cross-ice one-time set-up with about three minutes remaining.

Florida waited until there was only a minute remaining to pull Bobrovsky for the extra attacker despite controlling the puck deep in the Islanders zone. Still, though, their dangerous offense had the Islanders chasing a bit, but they were able to clear a couple of times before Lee out-raced and out-muscled Aaron Ekblad for a puck heading toward the empty Panthers net. Lee’s empty-netter sealed the deal with three seconds to go.

Thoughts

  • It was a good night for the power play against a good penalty killing team and a goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky who has struggled this season but has recently rounded into something resembling his Vezina form.
  • With Devon Toews scoring on the power play, I believe the broadcast crew said it was the tenth different Islander to score on the power play. He’s been very good at both ends of the ice this season.
  • And sure, Mathew Barzal might have been the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce and some skilled work from his teammates, but he’s already up to thirteen goals, on pace to obliterate his career-high in goals.
  • Both of these guys took advantage of some nifty work from Jordan Eberle, who had the primary assist on both of the Isles’ second-period power play goals.
  • The captain, Anders Lee, had the secondary assist digging the puck out of the corner on the first goal, fought Brian Boyle, and scored into an empty net for the Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
  • Good to see Adam Pelech back out there after the hit he took from Brian Boyle. He’s a big part of what this team does.
  • Noah Dobson looked pretty good in limited ice time. He was forced to get a little extra in the second when Pelech went down, but I don’t think we saw him (or Ross Johnston) in the third. Don’t quote me on that, though. I’m going off of my memory and I can be a bit absent-minded.
  • Thomas Greiss played spectacularly tonight to keep the Panthers out of the net during their push in the third.

Lot of Islanders populating this list tonight. It was another good team win like the other night, and as Carey says, one of their most Trotzian games of the season:

Up Next

The Islanders finally head home for a spell—they’ll host the Sabres at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.