Clawing Apart, Isles Lose 4-1 To Panthers

The New York Islanders went into today's game looking to complete a back-to-back sweep on the weekend, taking a total of four points to increase their hopes of a playoff berth for the first time in a long time. But the Isles would end up losing 4-1 to the Florida Panthers, putting a dent into their never ending climb up the standings.

The loss keeps them eight points out of the playoffs; not an impossible number to climb, but one that seems to grow larger with every loss, especially against opponents like the Panthers who are looking to accomplish the same goal. 

Frans Nielsen would get things started with an early goal assisted by P.A. Parenteau and Andrew MacDonald. Nielsen wisely cut across the neutral zone to be met by a perfect pass from Parenteau. He would then walk in and snipe one over Jose Theodore's glove to give his team the early lead. Despite the quick goal, the Panthers would establish plenty of pressure in the Isles end of the ice and answer back towards the end of the period. (Photo Credit: Robert Kowal/Flickr)

A shot from Tyson Strachan would bounce off of Steve Staios in front and end up behind Evgeni Nabokov, who was starting for his third game in four nights. It was a fluky goal but would be the first of four that would go unanswered. 

The second period saw goals from Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg on the power play and Jack Skille, increasing the Panthers lead to three goals and seemingly putting a comeback out of reach. The third period saw Al Montoya between the pipes; he stopped the four shots he faced and had one ring off the post. 

Starting Nabokov today appears to have been the obvious mistake due to the massive amount of hockey he has played since the All Star break. However, he is the goaltender that will give his team the best chance to win in Winnipeg on Tuesday. Effort really seemed to be the glaring issue that prevented an Islanders victory.

"We didn't come out and play very hard today," said Matt Martin, who earned some power play time in today's game. "Once again we knew what was at stake."

"We got to take a look in the mirror here and figure out what we want to do. We want to be a playoff team so we got to come play every night here on out and bring our best effort."

I asked Martin if the fact that his team played two afternoon games in a row played a factor in how they dictated their play on the ice, but he refused to allow any excuses to explain why they couldn't earn another win tonight. 

"I don't think so. They played an afternoon game yesterday too. There's no reason for them to have more jump than us. They were on the road and we played both games at home. Right now I don't think that's really an excuse. We just didn't prepare ourselves well enough."

Head coach Jack Capuano didn't seem to think the game was lost due to a lack off effort but rather an inability to execute on chances. The Isles were caught passing the puck to often, searching for the pretty play or the pretty goal instead of outworking their opponent. 

"I thought the effort was there," said Capuano. "We can sit here - you know, we lost the game. We can break it down - it's frustrating, there's nothing more frustrating for me to see people start to walk out of the building with three minutes left. It's not a good feeling."

The Islanders will hopefully find some good feelings when they play the Jets on Tuesday.

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Check back here later for a post from the Islanders "Skate With the Greats" game that will feature Mike Bossy, Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Butch Goring, Chico Resch and Brian Mullen. 

-Rob McGowan

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