Two teams adjusting to new head coaches rolled into Elmont and put on an uneven show for the New York Islanders home opener. The Florida Panthers prevailed, 3-1, on the strength of a go-ahead goal early in the third period, just 30 seconds after Noah Dobson had tied the game.
For the first game under Lane Lambert, it was a work in progress. That’s about all you can say at this point. The Isles had stretches where they looked cohesive and like they knew what they were supposed to do and wanted to do. There was sloppy play on both sides, too. And of course, the Panthers are a formidable lineup, so the chances of the Isles looking like a finely oiled machine were slim.
Everything is TBD.
First Period: Have y’all met each other before?
The opening period had all the disjointed sloppiness of the first period of a season under new coaches on both sides. Technically the Islanders were credited with outshooting the Panthers 16-10, but the period wasn’t consistently controlled by either side.
Anders Lee opened the sheet with a penalty 22 seconds in, which the Isles killed. The Isles had an absolutely terrible power play after Marc Staal took a dangerous leg-trip at the Isles blueline. Florida was aggressive on the penalty kill, got the best chances — requiring sharp Ilya Sorokin saves — and kept the Isles from setting up.
One of the Isles’ best chances came late in the period at 4-on-4: Brock Nelson stripped Brandon Montour on the backcheck, turned and sent the puck up off the left wing boards for Anthony Beauvillier, who chipped to Ryan Pulock for a chance alone but under pressure. Pulock made a move to the backhand with limited space, but Sergei Bobrovsky was there.
Second Period: Someone scores
The game settled down a bit in the middle period, which favored the Panthers, who officially outshot the Isles 15-5.
That was aided by three consecutive calls on the Isles, including two on Robin Salo. But the Panthers broke through at even strength, on a tricky redirection of a Radko Gudas point shot by fabled Star Wars character Eetu Luostarinen. That made it 1-0 at 12:45.
Things were a little sloggy after that, but the Panthers got their fourth power play of the game late: The period ended with Adam Pelech in the box on a pretty soft holding call. The Panthers threatened till the end, and had another 1:05 to play with to open the third.
Third Period: Islanders answer, Panthers answer the answer
The Isles killed the rest of that power play and then finally got one of their own, as Josh Bailey was hooked by Gudas as he drove to the front of the net. The Islanders converted pretty quickly, after a great zone entry by Mathew Barzal led to a Noah Dobson blast from the point to tie it at 1-1.
That brought a pensive crowd to life, but their buzz was short-lived: Just 30 seconds after the equalizer long-time Islanders villain Patric Hornqvist restored the Panthers lead. He grabbed his own rebound on the side of the net and completed a wraparound off Sorokin’s skate.
Then the Isles were pushed further into a corner after an absurdly stupid call against Anders Lee. The Isles captain absorbed several crosschecks from Gustav Forsling after the whistle, returned the favor, then finally wrapped Forsling in a headlock to stop the tomfoolery. Somehow Lee received the only call.
Forsling’s helmet came off in the exchange, but it was hardly a horse collar, and any number of blows before that by both players were absolutely against the rules. It’s embarrassing when referees make judgments like that.
The Isles killed that one off, including an outstanding shorthanded effort by Casey Cizikas that would’ve been goal of the year. He hustled and reached to poke the puck after Bobrovsky came out to the faceoff circle. The puck ramped off Bobrovsky’s paddle and into the air. Cizikas waited for it to come down to legal height before batting it out of the air, but at too sharp of an angle to go into the vacated net.
The officials may have evened that ledger for the Isles a bit when they ignored a possible too many men call, and soon after sent Bond villain Rudolf Balcers off for a soft hooking call.
On that power play, the Isles had one decent chance as Kyle Palmieri hit the side of the post on a one-timer, but that was about it. Mostly struggled to get and keep control.
The Islanders pulled Sorokin for a sixth attacker with under two minutes left, and created some good looks. Eventually Dobson had a puck hop by him at the blueline, making for an easy empty netter for Matthew Tkachuk.
- Alexander Romanov had a mixed beginning, throwing some heavy hits as advertised, but having a few puck-decision blips too.
- Matthew Tkachuk began his Panthers career as advertised, doing little d-bag things that usually aren’t called because refs are lazy.
- The Lambert Effect: Too early, of course, to gauge the difference between Barry Trotz and Lane Lambert. One easily noticeable thing was how many more stretch passes the Isles tried. There were forwards out at center ice in situations where they’d be benched (if they were young) for being out there under Trotz. It didn’t look so much strategic as instinctual, with some of the reins loosened.
- Other than that, this was a disjointed game for both teams, who you’d suspect are still forging their new identities under new coaches.
- If you watched in person, even though it was a loss, you’re lucky. The new virtual ads the NHL is so proud of putting on the boards for broadcasts are a distracting disaster. It’s not that they’re there, it’s that they’re constantly changing in the middle of play. Following the puck? Here’s a giant washout ribbon transition to make you lose it. Trying to see which forecheck a team is using? Here’s a bunch of other moving parts to keep you from counting in your periphery. Then of course when they cut to a different camera, the boards change completely because you see the backdrop of the actual in-arena ads. It makes for a really, really crappy — at times nauseating — viewing experience, and I’m sure the league absolutely doesn’t give a damn. We’ll just be told to deal with it, we’ll get used to it, it’s great for raising the salary cap, etc.
JT & the Karate Kid Work the Siren
Tonight a new tradition begins as #Isles legend John Tonelli sounds the NEW Islanders goal siren, kicking off tonight’s game with some help from diehard islanders fan, @RalphMacchio. pic.twitter.com/89w36V2zzX— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) October 13, 2022
I don’t know if these are all staged now, or a mix, or whatever. (Play resumed before this one reached its punchline/tragic ending, so you wonder...) They’re still a bad idea, but they led to good life advice from Shannon Hogan and A.J. Mleczko at the intermission.
Off-ice highlight of the night: Shannon & A.J. discussing the awkwardness of public, in-arena marriage proposals. They should do a whole PSA segment on this.— Lighthouse Hockey (@LHHockey) October 14, 2022
The Ducks are in town Saturday night.