Thanks in large part to three goals from Sam Bennett, the Florida Panthers didn’t have to rally from a third-period deficit on Saturday night as they took care of business early (and late) in a 5-1 win over the New York Islanders at FLA Live Arena.
Bennett was the star of the night by scoring three goals; Sergei Bobrovsky was strong in net once more, stopping 28 shots.
The Panthers, who rallied from two goals down in the third to beat Pittsburgh in the opener, took a 3-0 lead into the third and were never threatened.
Florida starts its season 2-0 after beating a pair of 2021 playoff teams in Pittsburgh and the Islanders.
No. 3 comes Tuesday as the Panthers travel up I-75 for their much-anticipated rematch with the champion Lightning.
Florida got off to a slow start against a hard-charging Islanders team smarting from a 6-3 opening night loss in Carolina.
The Islanders controlled the opening half of the first period — but it was the Panthers who had the lead when Radko Gudas fired a shot in that goalie Ilya Sorokin initially stopped.
Unfortunately for Sorokin and the Isles, Bennett was right there on the doorstep and hammered the loose puck into the empty net for a 1-0 lead. Florida had been held to one shot on goal prior to that sequence.
Bennett then made it 2-0 less than four minutes into the second period when he drove around the net and tucked the puck in on the wraparound move.
It looked as if the Islanders had cut Florida’s lead in half at 8:06 of the second but Anders Lee rode into Bobrovsky before Ryan Polock’s shot went through. Joel Quenneville challenged it and the NHL agreed: No goal for goalie interference.
The score stayed 2-0 until Anthony Duclair put the Panthers up three with 1:03 remaining in the second as he drove in on Sorokin and put the puck past his skate.
New York finally got on the board at 3:30 of the third after Gudas took a delay of game penalty.
Upon losing the faceoff, the Panthers failed to clear the puck from behind the net and it went right onto Oliver Wahlstrom’s stick.
The Islanders were outshooting the Panthers 24-15 at the time.
Bennett put the game away midway through the third, getting a gift of a few dozen caps as he drove in on Sorokin and snapped a wrist shot from the slot. Rookie defenseman Matt Kiersted got the assist on the shot, giving him his first NHL point.
It came on Florida’s 20th shot of the night.
Sasha Barkov took the Panthers’ 21st shot — and got their fifth goal of the night on it and he drove in and scored from in front of Sorokin with 7:38 remaining in the game.
The Panthers had a scary moment at the end of the first period when Aaron Ekblad appeared to be injured.
Ekblad, in his second game back after having ankle surgery on his left leg, got caught up against the wall and was hit by Zach Parise. It appeared that Ekblad had his left leg bent under him when he was hit.
Ekblad appeared to be in some serious pain following the hit.
But, there was Ekblad skating out for the start of the second period looking to be just fine and dandy.
He even got an assist on Duclair’s goal.
— The Panthers have the Islanders four power play chances on Saturday night, a vast improvement over the nine that Pittsburgh was granted in the opener. Two of the Panthers’ six penalties were for delay of game.
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Sam Bennett, Florida
2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida
3. Anthony Duclair, Florida
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
- WHEN: 7 p.m.
- WHERE: Amalie Arena, Tampa
- TICKETS: CLICK HERE
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: 560-AM
- 2021 regular season series: Florida won 5-3