The Islanders dropped their first game of the 2011-12 season at home in front of a sold out crowd, 2-0, to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
“They had a better start,” Islanders Captain Mark Streit said about the Panthers. “They came out pretty hard and we didn’t skate enough and we didn’t use our speed and they got the first goal. It happened throughout the whole game, we had a couple chances on the power play and as the game went on we got in the game better, but we certainly didn’t have a good start.”
Jose Theodore and Brian Campbell combine to stop John Tavares at Nassau Coliseum on October 8, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
With just five shots in the opening period, the Islanders didn’t make their first game of the season easy for Al Montoya, who made 27 saves in the losing effort.
“(Montoya) came up big for us and gave us a chance to win the game,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “He gave up one even strength goal and a 5-on-3 goal. Normally, when you do that, you feel you have a pretty good chance to win the hockey game.”
Getting shots to the net seemed to be the Islanders’ downfall.
“We didn’t create the offense tonight and we didn’t get to the paint and that’s the result of turnovers and not paying the price to get there,” Capuano said. “That’s the one thing we’ll address and we’ll do a better job of that.”
Neither team had complete control of the play through much of the first period, but the Panthers still doubled the Islanders shots with 10 and found their mark at 16:37; Stephen Weiss scored from the top of the crease to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Montoya said, “I knew it would be important for me to weather the storm right away. They got a couple of lucky breaks and I wasn’t too happy with that first one. It came through a screen, but it went through me.”
Penalties began taking a toll just over the 13-minute mark of the first. Mike Mottau, who took three penalties on the night, was called for high-sticking (13:03) and then again for holding at 18:13 as he and David Booth tangled up and took Montoya’s legs out from under him.
Jason Garrison is hit into the boards by Matt Martin at Nassau Coliseum on October 8, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
“It’s a little disappointing to me that whatever the reason we didn’t get out of the gate and then to compound that with the penalties that we took to give them opportunities right off the bat that put us behind,” Capuano said.
Jason Garrison gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead when he converted a 5-on-3 at 19:45 after Travis Hamonic took an extra two minute penalty for roughing Scottie Upshall, after both received five-minutes for fighting (and Upshall a game misconduct).
The Islanders played better through the second stanza, getting 12 shots on net compared to just five in the opening period.
It was the Islanders fourth line that stood out. Matt Martin had five shots and five hits in 8:57 of play, while getting to the paint and taking a penalty for goaltender interference in the third. Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo each recorded a shot and were even on the night. Both received significant shorthanded TOI with 2:50 and 2:08 respectively.
“Our fourth line was the best line tonight,” Capuano said. “That’s a credit to them, but our other guys need to play a little bit harder and our best players need to be our best players.”
Like the rest of the team, Streit was disappointed and hopes they’ll be able to turn their game around for Monday’s matinee against the Minnesota Wild.
“We wanted to start with a win,” Streit said. “We had a great crowd, a good atmosphere and a good feeling, but we lost the game. We know we can play better and we have to turn the page here and play Monday and get our first win.”