Playing from behind hurts Panthers in 5-2 loss to Islanders

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography

The Panthers and Islanders are fairly different teams than when they met in the playoffs last season, but the results between the two feel very similar.

After the Panthers defeated the bottom-dwelling division foe on Wednesday night in Brooklyn, they traveled back to Sunrise for the second meeting of a home-and-home set where things went the opposite way.

Two regulation wins in a row and 4 consecutive road wins entering Friday’s game after noticeably improved defensive zone play brought a renewed sense of hope to the locker room.

However, looking for their first 3-game winning streak of the season, the Panthers allowed goals by Jason Chimera and John Tavares within 1:26 of each other in the opening 3:48 of the 1st period to fall into an early hole. A meeting was subsequently held at the bench by head coach Tom Rowe during a TV break

“We just didn’t play good,” said Tom Rowe after the 5-2 loss. “They played really good in the first five minutes. We got back in it, but it’s not the way you want to start a game at home, that’s for sure.”

Vincent Trocheck scored his team-leading 13th goal of the season before the halfway mark of the 1st to get within one, although not by way of the 2 power play chances they had in the period.

The Panthers faced adversity the rest of the way and nearly turned things around after killing off a full 2-minute 5-on-3 power play for the Islanders, but Nick Leddy put a rocket top-shelf past Luongo to regain a 2-goal lead and silence the home crowd in the process.

Once again, the Panthers got the game back to a one-goal deficit on a Reilly Smith power play goal early in the 3rd period, but John Tavares would score twice to complete the hat-trick and capture the victory.

Several borderline calls went against the Panthers, putting their penalty kill to work often as they negated all 6 of the Islanders’ opportunities with the man-advantage.

“The PK’s been great,” said Rowe. “The PK has been unbelievable; [Roberto] Luongo was unbelievable. He made some great saves. The PK hasn’t been the issue.”

Roberto Luongo made 37 saves on 41 shots while Thomas Greiss stonewalled the Panthers with 27 saves on 29 shots.

“It was a rough game all around,” said Luongo. “I thought we came out flat. We weren’t ready to play as a team, myself include. [The Islanders] scored two early goals and they were hungrier. They got called out by their coach and they were the hungrier team tonight. That’s the bottom line: they wanted it more.”

The Panthers will play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday in the second game of a back-to-back. Columbus defeated the Lightning on Friday by a score of 3-1 but have won just 2 of 5 games after the final win of their 16-game winning streak on Januard 3rd.

Before that streak started, the Panthers were the last team to beat the Blue Jackets with a 2-1 shootout victory on November 26th. Jaromir Jagr scored in regulation and Aleksander Barkov won it with a shootout goal.

Post-game notes: F Seth Griffith returned to the lineup after missing 3 games with a concussion. He played on the top line with Vincent Trocheck and Jaromir Jagr while F Denis Malgin sat out as a healthy scratch … Trocheck’s 1st-period goal was the 50th of his NHL career … F Greg McKegg (upper body) missed his 2nd consecutive game and isn’t expected to play on Saturday against the Blue Jackets. He could return on Tuesday, January 17th against the Calgary Flames …  Head coach Tom Rowe gave injury updates on the Panthers’ sidelined players … F Aleksander Barkov (undisclosed) is currently out indefinitely and will be evaluated on a ‘week-to-week’ basis … F Jonathan Huberdeau (Achilles’ surgery) is projected to return around the first week of March … D Alex Petrovic is on track for a return after the NHL All-Star Break … F Nick Bjugstad (groin / leg) is expected to miss “a few weeks.”

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