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Panthers 6, Islanders 1: Pulock, Bailey out, road trip ends with mercy kill

Most lopsided loss of the season, let’s get the hell home.

New York Islanders v Florida Panthers
In our kitchen.
Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Some nights, a team makes early mistakes that aren’t costly, and they settle down to make a game of it. Other nights, every early mistake ends up in the net, and the game is lost before the first intermission.

The latter was the case Tuesday in Florida, where everything went wrong in the Islanders’ first period, and even when Ilya Sorokin would bail them out with a crazy save, no one would pick up the garbage. It was 4-0 by the end of the first period, and our minds moved on to Saturday’s home opener. By the time things were signed and sealed, it was a 6-1 loss to the Panthers — a rude follow-up to their 5-1 loss in Sunrise on the opening weekend of the season.

Pulock, Bailey Out

The Isles faced some adversity before the puck had dropped: Ryan Pulock was out with a lower body injury (to be re-evaluated back in New York, which hints at the possibility of something not-minor), and Josh Bailey was out of the equation due to COVID protocol.

That meant both Sebastian Aho and Noah Dobson (scratched in Tampa) were in the lineup, and both Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom were in the lineup again, along with a potentially premature return for Casey Cizikas, who certainly didn’t look his normal self.

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First Period: No one covers the rebounds

It didn’t have to go this way. An early Islanders power play was futile once again, though snakebitten Kyle Palmieri rang one off the post. Soon after the power play ended, the Panthers top line flew through the neutral zone, Anthony Duclair got around a stretched Adam Pelech, and Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin were there but did not prevent Jonathan Huberdeau from connecting with the pass for the first goal.

Even so, it remained 1-0 until the 14:40 mark, when the Panthers reeled off three goals in a 3:33 span.

At 14:40 Zdeno Chara had a failed clear on a long shift, his man got to the net to force a good deflection save from Sorokin, and Ryan Lomberg was completely unattended to put the rebound upstairs to make it 2-0.

At 16:04 Carter Verhaeghe took advantage of Cizikas on an odd-man rush, but Sorokin made a great save on his setup. Alas, no one picked up the loose puck and Verhaeghe was able to sneak behind and put it in to make it 3-0.

At 18:13 Patric Hornqvist added insult to the barrage, ramping a shot from the goal line up Andy Green’s stick blade and off Sorokin’s mask and in to make it 4-0.

It was fast, it was ugly, and it was over.

Second Period: Barkov hurt, Palmieri finally scores

Semyon Varlamov came on in relief for Sorokin to start the second period.

There were only two notable parts of the second period:

Kyle Palmieri finally got his first goal of the season — a nifty, patient shot upstairs down the right wing, to break the shutout and at least get something.

And prior to that, Aleksander Barkov left the game after a knee-on-knee hit by Scott Mayfield, who received a major penalty and game misconduct. Barkov is frankly fun to watch and the Panthers deserve star health after Aaron Ekblad’s season ended right on the even of the playoffs last year. Here’s hoping it’s not as serious as it looked.

Speaking of Ekblad, before Palmieri’s goal at 15:00, the Panthers blueliner had made it 5-0 with a well-disguised shot after the Isles fourth line again got lost in its coverage.

Third Period: Formalities

Radko Gudas delivered a jarring and uncharacteristically clean check to Brock Nelson’s chest as the Isles center accepted a pass from behind him at the blueline. Palmieri jumped Gudas, though the linesmen did not allow much of a fight. Still, that meant Palmieri had to sit for 17 minutes — the major, the two-minute instigator, and the 10-minute misconduct.

The Isles killed the penalty and almost fed Oliver Wahlstrom coming out of the box, but the puck bounced away from him to the endboards.

Matt Martin later tried to engage Gudas, and received a 10-minute misconduct for his troubles, which ended his night.

With 3:24 left, Frank Vatrano outmuscled the Isles in the neutral zone and eluded the Chara-Aho pairing to walk in and beat Varlamov far-side, making it 6-1.

Barry Reacts

After the Panthers got up, “We sagged, squeezing it, that’s part of being a little bit fragile. I haven’t said that too often.” Along with the continuing pattern of bad decisions and fly-bys.

Maybe It’s Good Luck

ESPN+/Hulu

This game was exclusively on ESPN+/Hulu, so you were screwed if you don’t have access to those.

If you did have access, did you experience what I did? The audio was a fraction of a second ahead of the video, rather annoying. And the corner camera feed was ahead of the rinkside cam, so when they’d switch from the former to the latter, I’d suddenly see the second or two that I just watched all over again. Maybe it’s my broadband.

Up Next

It’s over! The 13 games on the road, I mean. No telling how crazy the rest of this schedule will be, with a new building, a third of the road schedule done, and lots of breaking in UBS Arena.

But it all starts with an insane weekend: Saturday for the home opener against the Calgary Flames, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs the next night.