Isles Fall In Home Opener Vs. Panthers
"When you have, whatever we had, 8 shots going into the third, 9 shots, something like that, we obviously didn't create enough offense," said Kyle Okposo after the game.
And that was basically the story in the Islanders 2-0 home opening loss to the Florida Panthers. A sold out crowd of 16,234 fans left in mystery of what the new goal song would be for the year as the Isles failed to generate enough offense to get them on the board. The Islanders were out shot 10-5 after the first period and only had 8 shots through the first 30 minutes of the game.
Al Montoya got the nod in goal over Rick DiPietro and Evgeni Nabokov, a somewhat surprising choice but one that was applauded. Montoya looked very strong in the pre-season and continued that play into the first game of the year.
"Al played terrific," continued Okposo. "There's not much he can do on either of those goals. 5-on-3 and one just squeaks behind him and is laying there. But he made some huge saves for us and kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win and we just couldn't pull one out for him."
The Panthers power play goal was a slap shot that came from Jason Garrison that was set up by Brian Campbell and Kris Versteeg. Campbell would have two assists on the night as he also took the initial shot on Stephen Weiss' rebound goal. Tomas Fleischmann had the other assist.
Jose Theodore stopped a total of 27 shots in the shutout victory for the Panthers, sealing off a night where the new guys were getting the job done.
The 5-on-3 was indicative of how the Islanders were playing, especially in their own end. They had trouble making outlet passes and were caught making plenty of turnovers. Andrew MacDonald was caught making several poor decisions with the puck that came close to developing into major scoring chances for the opposition. Their frustrations eventually led to one too many penalties. Mike Mottau had three minors alone.
"I knew it would be important for me to weather the storm right away," said Al Montoya. "You know they got a couple of lucky breaks, I wasn't too happy with that first one. It came through a screen but it went through me. And there power play, they were moving the puck pretty well. We weathered the storm, we just couldn't get that bounce to go in the second or third.
"It shouldn't be a problem to score goals. We have all the talent in the world from our first line to our fourth line to score goals so I'm not too concerned about that knowing we'll be able to do that."
Unfortunately, the Islanders best line was their fourth, featuring Marty Reasoner between Matt Martin and Jay Pandolfo. Martin had five shots and five hits in under nine minutes of play, forcing head coach Jack Capuano to use him in the final minutes of the game over some other players that he typically relies on to score goals.
"They played hard, there's no question, but we didn't execute," said Capuano. "Our fourth line was our best line tonight. 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."
Travis Hamonic, who sat alone in his locker stall to the left of the media surrounding Mark Streit, looked crushed after his first NHL opening night loss in his career.
"I don't think you can pinpoint a problem," he said. "I think it came down to them capitalizing on the couple of scoring chances that they had and we didn't. It's frustrating to lose a game, especially when you lose it when you play really hard. But sometimes those are the games that you learn a lot from. We're done in this locker room right now, losing these games. Now our focus is definitely to Monday afternoon. It's a big game for us and we're going to be ready."
The Islanders seemed to have a lot of trouble passing the puck, not only out of their zone, but in all three. The Panthers seemed to have all the passing lanes locked down with bodies to help keep the Islanders at bay.
"It seemed like they did a decent enough job in the neutral zone trying to clog things up and it's not only Florida, but a lot of team's in the National Hockey League play that way now and that's kind of how you have to play to slow the game down," added Hamonic. "We wanted to use our speed tonight and I felt that we utilized it. Like I said it just came down to them getting a couple of chances and they capitalized and we didn't."
Hamonic was also quick to show that this team still carries that in your face attitude and willingness to stick up for a teammate. Montoya had been run into in his crease on two consecutive plays. With Kris Versteeg laying under Montoya after colliding with him in a rush, Hamonic was quick to give him a face wash before fighting Scotty Upshall.
"Every time I fight I say you fight for a couple reasons. One is to defend a teammate, two is to change momentum in the game, and three to kind of defend yourself. I think in that instance I hit the nail on the head for all three of them. I was trying to defend Al and the next thing I knew is that he was right in my face. It's a part of my game that I welcome."
But in the end, the Islanders need a way to establish that type of momentum for a full three period hockey game.
"You can't have passengers and you can't take twenty minutes off," said Capuano. "You got to play a full sixty minutes. We turned it on, we had spurts. The game had changes in momentum but you got to play sixty minutes to win and we didn't accomplish that tonight."
They will look to accomplish that on Monday at 1:00 vs. the visiting Minnesota Wild.
In case you missed it, I joined Mike Carver and his crew from Hockey This Week for their pregame show. We discussed the changes in the Islanders line-up and our expectations for the season. You can listen in below to hear from me at 34:23 and from HockeyBuzz's Dee Karl as well, as she followed right after.
Follow me on Twitter!