Isles Blow Third Period Lead, Lose 5-3 To Panthers

The New York Islanders played host to the Florida Panthers this afternoon, looking to redeem themselves after a very embarrassing 6-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils yesterday afternoon. To the Isles' dismay, that would not be the case as they squandered a two-goal lead in the third period to lose to the Panthers by a score of 5-3.  

The first period started off with a bang. Eric Boulton went toe-to-toe with Krys Barch in a pretty even scrap between the two skaters just a few minutes in to the opening frame. On the very next shift, Brian Strait started a scrum with Jonathan Huberdeau after he was tripped in the neutral zone behind the play.

Thomas Vanek would open the scoring, picking up a loose puck in the slot at the 6:41 mark of the first. He snapped a beauty of wrist shot over the blocker of Tim Thomas to give the Isles the 1-0 lead. Cal Clutterbuck and Calvin de Haan would get the assists.

Less than a minute later, Vanek would notch his second of the period on the power play. The puck would come to him about ten feet north of the right hash marks. Once the puck was on his blade, Vanek let go of another laser, this time sniping the puck just under the crossbar and over Thomas' glove. Lubomir Visnovsky and Frans Nielsen, who was playing in his first game back from a broken hand, would get the assists.

A few odd-man rushes would go the Isles way, one in particular that was stopped by Thomas when Vanek one-timed a shot high in the slot. But the score would remain 2-0 Isles with them outshooting the Panthers 14-11 at the end of one.

The second period did not contain the same fire and intensity as the first. Many turnovers were had and plenty of neutral zone play dominated the middle frame. A few shots rang off the crossbar, including one from Brock Nelson after ripping a one-timer high in the slot.

It appeared that the score would not change until Shawn Matthias buried a rebound past Anders Nilsson with under two minutes remaining in the second period to get the Panthers on the board. Huberdeau would get the assist.

But the Isles responded immediately. Ryan Strome would put home a rebound between Thomas' pads to regain a two-goal lead for his second goal of the season. The helpers went to Vanek and Kyle Okposo.

Things would go from good to bad very quickly for the Islanders in the third period. Huberdeau would release a wrist shot through Matt Carkner's legs that deflected off the d-man's stick blade. The puck would change directions and beat Nilsson off the crossbar and in to put the Panthers within one goal of the Isles' lead. Gilbert would get the assist.

Like much of the other goals this game, the Panthers would strike again less than a minute later. Matthias would skate past the defense and deke Nilsson down onto the crest of his jersey and put home his second goal of the game to knot things up at 3.

At the 10:32 mark of the final frame, Matthias would keep up his strong play and set up another goal for the Panthers. He let go of a wicked wrist shot when flying up the weak side of the Isles zone. Nilsson stopped the initial shot with his left pad, but the rebound sat next to him unnoticed. Scottie Upshall buried the loose puck to give the Panthers a 4-3 lead.

And of course, when it rains it pours in Islanders country. While down a man, Upshall would score his second of the game with assists coming from Olsen and Kulikov. And to make matters worse, the goal came on a delayed penalty to Casey Cizikas, allowing the Panthers to start with a fresh power play after scoring on the present one at that time.

This was likely the last time that Vanek and Andrew MacDonald will have both worn Islanders jerseys in front of their hometown fans as the trade deadline approaches this Wednesday at 3 PM.

Stay tuned for updates at TCL Isles.

-Rob McGowan

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