Nick Boynton and Cory Stillman each scored for Florida to spoil Rick DiPietro's season debut Saturday night at BankAtlantic Center, as the Panthers defeated the Islanders 2-0. Overall, DiPietro was solid in goal, making 34 saves in his first action of the season.
"I felt good. It's nice to be back and contribute," said DiPietro, who made his first start since March 15. "Unfortunately, we lost, but it was good to get my feet wet and finally get some action."
Florida took a 1-0 lead just 24 seconds into the game when Keith Ballard's slap shot from the point hit the post and took a big carom to the right side. Boynton found the puck and put home an easy rebound for his second goal of the season. Ballard and Brett McLean got the assists.
The Panthers had a couple of chances to increase their lead in the first period. Nathan Horton had a look at a wide open net at 3:34 of the period, but was denied by the stick of Mark Streit. Florida also had three power plays in the period, but couldn't convert.
The Panthers finally capitalized on their fourth power-play opportunity with Stillman's goal at 8:58 of the second period. Nathan Horton drew two defenders at the top of the slot and found Stillman on the right side. Stillman wristed the puck past a sprawling DiPietro for his second goal of the season. Horton and Rostislav Olesz had the assists.
"First and foremost, it's another night where we get all these penalties against us and it puts us on our heels," said Head Coach Scott Gordon. "It doesn't matter how good you kill penalties, you're not allowing yourself to establish any momentum in their zone."
DiPietro made 17 saves in the second period. One of those came against Radek Dvorak. After stealing the puck from Freddy Meyer, Dvorak skated in on a breakaway against DiPietro. Dvorak went to his backhand before trying to go 5-hole, but was denied by DiPietro.
DiPietro also robbed Richard Zednik on a power play midway through the third period. Stephen Weiss found Zednik alone at the top of the crease, but DiPietro stretched across to make the glove save.
"I thought Rick did a great job of tracking the puck. That was probably the best I've seen him," said Gordon. "Especially to come off giving up a goal on his first shot, not to have that phase him was great."
Panthers' goaltender Tomas Vokoun made 31 saves to earn the shutout.
The Islanders went 0-for-2 on the power play, recording three shots. The Panthers went 1-for-6 with the man advantage. Florida out-shot New York, 36-31.
Three Stars of the Game: 1. Tomas Vokoun: made 31 saves for his first shutout of the season 2. Cory Stillman: PPG, 2 shots, +1 3. Nick Boynton: 1 goal, 3 shots, 24:07 of ice time, +1 Honorable Mention – Rick DiPietro: made 34 saves in his season debut
Slapshots: Jeff Tambellini was denied his first goal of the season when he hit the crossbar in the second period…Mark Streit again led the Islanders with 23:58 of ice time…Bill Guerin led the team with six shots, while Trent Hunter paced the Islanders with four hits…Josh Bailey (lower body), Mitch Fritz (healthy) and Radek Martinek (upper body) were all scratches.
16 Jon Sim - 93 Doug Weight - 13 Bill Guerin
10 Richard Park - 89 Mike Comrie - 21 Kyle Okposo
15 Jeff Tambellini - 51 Frans Nielsen - 7 Trent Hunter
11 Andy Hilbert - 45 Nate Thompson - 20 Sean Bergenheim
Goaltenders 29 Tomas Vokoun
31 Craig Anderson