|@ Islanders (38-21-8)||0||0||3||3|
The Panthers were all over the Islanders early on, getting shot attempts galore on the New York team. Not only did the Panthers have many scoring opportunities, but they also were doing a good job of holding off the Islanders and keeping them away from the net. The Panthers were clearly shooting, but for some reason they were not able to get the puck past Thomas Greiss. This all changed after a cross-ice pass by Alex Petrovic hit Aleksander Barkov’s stick. Jonathan Huberdeau got the secondary assist and the Panthers were up by one. The Panthers were able to hold this 1-0 lead until the end of the period and they also led in shots on goal 11-5. The Panthers had a great first period. The Islanders are a very good team, though, and can clearly come back. The Cats must find a way to keep up the good work while not tiring themselves out too much before the game tomorrow.
The Panthers started the second period just as they had the first but the Islanders quickly started to pick up the pace. Luongo was still able to keep up, but he was experiencing more of a challenge. The Islanders were starting to pull ahead on the offensive front but this would have to take a backseat after Matt Martin was called for interference. The Panthers, who had been great on the power play lately, continued their hot streak with some help of Nick Bjugstad. His goal was assisted by Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. The Islanders would get a chance to redress this after the Panthers got an interference penalty of their own. Shawn Thornton was responsible for the penalty. The Isles did not have the same luck and chances on the power play that the Panthers did and the Cats were able to keep their two goal lead. In fact, Reilly Smith nearly widened this lead on a shorthanded breakaway. Anders Lee had a hard hit on Dmitry Kulikov that led Reilly Smith to step in and fight. Anders Lee is a big guy and was expected to knock Smith out within seconds, but this was not the case. Reilly Smith held his own and arguably even won the fight. The two contenders got five each for fighting, but Reilly Smith got the instigator penalty and a ten minute misconduct, so the Islanders went back on the power play. Brock Nelson cross-checked Erik Gudbranson, but for some reason, Gudbranson was penalized too for unsportsmanlike conduct, so the game went back to five-on-five immediately after the Cats killed the Smith penalty. At the end of the period, the Panthers were up 2-0 and also led in shots on goal 18-11. This was a hard-fought second period for the Cats and they came out on top once again. Still, a two goal lead is not safe for the Panthers, so they will need to keep the pressure up in the third.
Shot attempts on shot attempts on shot attempts marked the beginning of the third period for both teams. Aleksander Barkov really wanted to score again and he was a main offender early in the frame. The Islanders, with the help of their screaming fans, quickly caught up to the Cats in shots on goal. Shane Prince was sent to the penalty box on a hooking call and the Panthers would get their second power play of the game. The team had some good chances but the penalty was eventually killed. The Panthers were not playing poorly but an Islanders goal was a long time coming. Kyle Okposo scored with just over seven minutes left in the period to make this a one goal game. Barkov and Jagr came back swinging but the puck would not go in. Then, what we all had feared became a reality. Josh Bailey scored off of a rebound and tied the game up. Cal Clutterbuck sealed the deal in the quick Islanders comeback to put the Islanders in the lead. Well, that was quick. The Panthers very rarely collapse like this but when they do, it is bad. The Panthers called a much-needed time out with just a few seconds left in the game but things were looking bleak. The Panthers put their best effort out in the final moments of the game, but their collapse led them to lose this game 3-2.
Before this season started, COTP mentioned that Barkov was on the verge of a breakout. Recently, this breakout has occurred. His goal midway through the first period put the Panthers on the board. He also assisted the Bjugstad goal. Speaking of which, Nick “Rotisserie Chicken” Bjugstad finally got his groove back, as seen by his power play goal in the second. Jonathan Huberdeau assisted both of these goals.
The Panthers will continue their road trip tomorrow, Tuesday, March 15th at 7:30 pm ET against the Montreal Canadiens. Stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.