ISLANDERS TAKE A STEP BACK
by Brian Bohl
After a strong first period, the Islanders did not look sharp for the rest of the game and as a result dropped a 3-1 matinee vs. the Florida Panthers at Nassau Coliseum.
Luongo made 29 saves in addition to stopping a penalty shot by Miroslav Satan in the third period with the Islanders trailing 2-1. Satan had a chance to tie the game midway through the third period when he was hooked down by Branislav Mezei during a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. The sniper got off a hard shot, but Luongo made a chest save and knocked the puck away with his stick.
Florida took advantage of their power play opportunities, tying the score at one on Kristian Huselius' first goal of the year early in the second. Rick DiPietro made the initial save on a shot by Joe Nieuwendyk, but could not get to the rebound.
The Panthers would take the lead four minutes later. A turnover in the netural zone started an odd-man rush, and Florida converted on a 2-on-1 when Chris Gratton buried a lateral pass from Nathan Horton just outside of the goal crease to give Florida a lead they would not relinquish.
The gritty fourth line of Mattias Weinhandl, Petteri Nokelainen, and Robert Nilsson drew an early interference penalty to set up the Islanders' first goal. Satan capitalized immediately on the man advantage, banking home the rebound after a slap shot by Alexi Zhitnik caromed off the post. The goal was the second in as many games for Satan and gave New York the lead six minutes into the first.
DiPietro kept his team in the game in the second. Facing a 5-on-3 penalty killing situation for over 90 seconds, the southpaw made 5 stops and allowed the Islanders to ice the puck, keeping the deficit to within one at the second intermission. DiPietro had another strong game, making 20 saves while helping the Islanders kill 11 out of 12 penalties.
Rostislav Olesz scored the final tally with an empty net goal, icing the victory with a little more than 30 seconds remaining.
GOAL OF THE NIGHT: Gratton's first goal of the season proved to be the game-winner. Just three and half minutes after his team tied the game, the former Tampa Bay All-Star took advantage of accurate passes from Horton and Niklas Hagman to swing the momentum irrevocably towards Florida.
HITTER OF THE NIGHT: Trent Hunter led all players with four hits. The forward's most physical play came in front of the net, keeping the Florida forwards outside of the crease and preventing them from setting up in the slot.
"DINGER" OF THE NIGHT: Zhitnik's hard shot from inside the blue line beat Luongo but ricochetted off the right post. Satan's subsequent rebound goal netted Zhitnik an assist Luongo would face a real dinger in the last minute of the first, catching a Satan slapper from inside the faceoff circle in his throat protector. He stayed in the game.
IN THE ZONE: Lunogo entered the game with two shutouts and miniscule .68 GAA to his credit. The Vezina Trophy finalist continued his hot play, posting his third win in four games. The penalty shot was the fourth Luongo's faced in his career and the fourth save his made.
ICE CHIPS: Both Florida goaltenders (Luongo and backup Jamie McLennan) started their NHL careers with the Islanders...Eric Cairns, who was a defenseman for New York for seven seasons, made his first trip to the Coliseum since signing with the Panthers as a free agent .Hall of Famer and former Islander's Captain Denis Potvin received a tour of the new Islanders locker room. He appeared visibly moved when interviewed by FSNY.
Aaron Asham - Alexei Yashin - Miroslav Satan
Oleg Kvasha - Shawn Bates - Mark Parrish
Trent Hunter - Mike York - Jason Blake
Mattias Weinhandl - Petteri Nokelainen - Robert Nilsson
Alexei Zhitnik- Brent Sopel
Tomi Pettinen- Janne Niinimaa
Brad Lukowich- Chris Campoli