The Florida Panthers are fighting for one of two wild card spots but did themselves no favors with a 5-1 loss to the host New York Islanders on Friday night.
Well, fighting is not the word we would use for this game as the Islanders dominated from the second period on and snapped a two-game slide.
New York ended up outshooting the Panthers 16-6 in the second period alone and 41-22 overall.
Florida came into the night four points back of the Islanders in the standings — and simple math tells you it is now a six-point hole.
And the Islanders currently sit outside a playoff spot as well. The Capitals currently hold the final wild card position and hold an eight-point advantage on Florida.
The Panthers limp into their Christmas break with what is now their third losing streak of the season.
Florida has lost three straight and six of its past eight. This was also the Isles’ first win against the Panthers — in the regular season — since December 12, 2019. New York did beat Florida in four games of the expanded postseason in 2020.
Matthew Tkachuk had some harsh words for his team after the loss — one he gave them a 1-0 lead in not long after Aaron Ekblad left the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury following a brief scrum behind the net.
“Not very good. We deserved what we got tonight,” Tkachuk said. “There have been games this year we definitely deserved to win but tonight we did not. We did not play a very good game in front of Bob and he did a hell of a job to keep us in it.
“We truly just … lots of mistakes. Probably cheating it is the best way to put it. You can’t do that against any team in this league. We need to find a way to use this break to get healthy.
“We have an extended break and we have had bad luck with that but it is no excuse. We have to find ways to win. We’re so behind where we have to be right now. Every individual needs to find a way to make a bigger difference than what we have this year.”
If Ekblad has to miss time coming out of the break, well, that is one more obstacle this team is going to have to overcome.
Things are not looking good, folks.
THE GOALS OF THE GAME
- Panthers 1, Islanders 0 (8:09, 1st): The Panthers took the initial lead when Tkachuk fought for the puck down low, got it to Brandon Montour who returned the favor and shot it back to the front of the net where Tkachuk was waiting for it. The two teams were on a 4-on-4 due to the dual penalties to Ekblad and Oliver Wahlstrom (read below).
- Islanders 1, Panthers 1 (5:20, 2nd): Anthony Beauvillier tied the score by pouncing on a fat rebound from a shot that hit Marc Staal in the back and bounded back to Beauvillier in the top of the slot. New York was outshooting Florida 16-9 at the time.
- Islanders 2, Panthers 1 (19:15, 2nd): Ryan Pulock fired off a shot from the top of the left circle following a faceoff win and got it through traffic. Sergei Bobrovsky was screened in front as Zach Parise posted up Josh Mahura in front of the net. SOG: Isles 27-13.
- Islanders 3, Panthers 1 (7:10, 3rd): The Islanders called up top prospect Aatu Räty and he made quite the impression in his NHL debut with a beauty of a goal on Bobrovsky. SOG: 33-15.
- Islanders 4, Panthers 1 (8:21, 3rd): Parise finally found some space against Bobrovsky after being stopped on numerous early chances, sliding through the left circle and going bar-down on a slick backhanded move. The Panthers’ holiday break appeared to start early — like in the second period early.
- Islanders 5, Panthers 1 (15:50, 3rd): It was an empty-net tally for Beauvillier as he got his second of the night.
Ekblad headed to the room following a short scrum with Wahlstrom just 7:16 into the game.
After throwing a couple of punches at Wahlstrom, the two were seperated and Ekblad pointed to his right shoulder with a sour look as he made it to the bench and went straight to the room.
The Panthers reported Ekblad was questionable to return but he did not.
The Islanders also lost a couple of players to injury during the course of the game, the most serious looking to be Simon Holmstrom sustaining a knee injury after colliding with Sam Bennett late in the second.
Holmstrom was slashed in the hands by Carter Verhaeghe (penalty) but as he was skating through the zone was hit by Bennett. He did not return for the third.
Brock Nelson also did not come out for the third period.
MR. SMITH GOES TO FLORIDA
Givani Smith made his Florida debut playing on the fourth line with Zac Dalpe and Grigori Denisenko.
Smith, who played for Dalpe and Denisenko’s Charlotte Checkers on Thursday night, made his presence known early on, throwing with New York’s Matt Martin with 5:49 left in the first.
Bobrovsky had to be on top of his game on Friday night as the Isles kept coming at him throughout the game.
Florida was outshot 16-6 in the second period alone with Bobrovsky giving up one goal that bounced off a teammate onto an Islanders’ stick and another when he was completely screened out of the play.
Throughout the game, Bobrovsky was strong and made a number of key stops on the likes of Parise and Anders Lee to name a few.
Things got away from Bobrovsky and the Panthers in the third — but don’t blame this one on the Florida goalie.
HOW THE PANTHERS STARTED
Carter Verhaeghe // Sam Bennett // Matthew Tkachuk
Eetu Luostarinen // Anton Lundell // Sam Reinhart
Ryan Lomberg // Eric Staal // Nick Cousins
Givani Smith // Zac Dalpe // Grigori Denisenko
Gus Forsling // Aaron Ekblad
Marc Staal // Brandon Montour
Matt Kiersted // Josh Mahura
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Anthony Beauvillier, Islanders (2 goals, assist)
2. Ryan Pulock, Islanders (goal, 11 shot attempts)
3. Zach Parise, Islanders (goal, 9 shot attempts)
PANTHERS ON DECK
MONTREAL CANADIENS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 3-1
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 51-38-11, 6 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Dec. 30 at Carolina Hurricanes, 7:30 p.m.