UNIONDALE, N.Y. – In front of a sold-out audience at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the New York Islanders were unable to come away with an opening-night win, as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to the Florida Panthers in an Eastern Conference match-up on Saturday evening in Uniondale, N.Y. Though they did not find the back of the net, the Isles, who dropped to 0-1 on the season, were headed up by Brian Rolston and Matt Martin, who finished with five shots each. As for Florida, it improved to 1-0 overall.
During the first period, it turned out to be all Panthers late. Outshooting the Isles 10-5 in the stanza, Florida got a pair of goals in the final three-plus minutes. The first came with 3:23 to go. Brian Campbell took a shot from the right circle, and snuck through New York goalie Al Montoya’s pads. Stephen Weiss followed up, and tapped the puck into the back of the net. Then, as time was set to expire, Jason Garrison fired a goal from the right point on a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity. Campbell was credited with two assists on the play, giving him a +2 rating.
For the Islanders, their best opportunity came from John Tavares with 12:47 to go. Going one-on-one with ‘Cats netminder Jose Theodore, who spent the last two years with the rival Washington Capitals, Tavares attempted a between the pads of Theodore. But, the Florida goalie closed up the five-hole, leaving the Isles without a score after one period. In addition to their shot advantage, the Panthers sported an 11-8 clip in the faceoff circle.
In the second stanza, Florida came out of the gate strong with a 12-2 shot advantage in its favor. But, Montoya managed to stop each of the ‘Cats shot in that span. New York answered though in the last eight minutes of the period, earning two power-play opportunities in the process. Theodore posted another solid showing though, as Florida held the hosts off the board, maintaining its 2-0 advantage at the intermission. The best chance for the Isles came with 7:47 left, as Jay Pandolfo put a shot on net, but Theodore was there to close the pads.
Early into the third period, Weiss tried to put the game away for good on a 3-on-2 chance. Tomas Fleischmann sent a cross-ice pass to Weiss, whose shot hit Montoya, and gave a rebound. New York managed to clear the puck to escape any further damage. Kyle Okposo looked to give the Isles their first goal of the year just minutes after, via a power-play chance. Though his shot beat Theodore, the puck struck iron, and was cleared by the Panthers defense, which did not yield many rebounds or turnovers throughout the evening.
“Hamonic made a good play,” said Okposo. “I got a one-timer that he (Theodore) didn’t see. Unfortunately, the puck hit the post.”
From that point on, New York was unable to register any quality chances, as Florida won its first contest of the New Year by a 2-0 final. Theodore, who preserved the shutout in goal, and Montoya made 27 saves apiece. The Panthers owned a 29-27 margin in shots and faceoff wins, while the Islanders held a 24-13 clip in blocked shots.
Following the contest, the Isles still felt there is a lot to be desired, but was happy about the crowd turnout. “We had a couple of chances on the power play, but could not come away with the win,” said Streit, who was tabbed as the captain of this year’s Long Island team. “We did not have a good start…Overall, the crowd was great. We have to turn the page though.”
P.A. Parenteau stated more of the same. “I thought we were good early, but we have to get the puck toward the net…It was nice to see the building like that, but we just couldn’t score a goal.”
Head Coach Jack Capuano also issued his closing statements: “We never executed, and really got out of the gate. They need to play a full 60 minutes.” In regards to his offense, the second-year man at the helm said: The best players have to be the best players. Tonight, they weren’t. Our fourth line was the best all night.”
Capuano and the Islanders will look to get their first win of the season on Monday (Oct. 10) when they host the Minnesota Wild in a Columbus Day matinee tilt at Nassau Coliseum. The puck drops at 1 p.m.