A Frans-tastic Finish

 Sunrise, Fl- When the New York Islanders entered last night's contest with the Florida Panthers it was with the knowledge that failing to get a point would mean mathematical elimination from the playoffs.  While the chances of seeing a playoff run this season is unfortunately a long shot, a regulation loss would have eliminated all hope.  However, Frans Nielsen and the rest of the Islanders team had other plans in mind. (Photo Credit: AP/Newsday)

1st Period- The Panthers came out buzzing in the first period outshooting the Islanders 16-9 on their way to an early 1-0 lead.  Just under six minutes into the first period the Panthers took the lead when Stephen Weiss snuck in front to bury a pass from Tomas Fleischmann.  Jose Theodore stonewalled the Islanders through the first period not allowing a goal and frustrating the Islanders' scorers.  

2nd Period- After the first period the Islanders found their legs and started giving the Panthers a run for their money.  It took almost the entire period for that hard work to pay off however, 18:57 to be exact.  Matt Moulson buried his team leading 34th goal of the season to tie the game at one.  The Islanders earned a power play at the 17:01 mark of the middle stanza when Jason Garrison was sent to the box for cross checking.  The Islanders set up shop after a John Tavares faceoff win in the Panthers' zone and the puck would eventually find Moulson in front who made no mistake in beating Theodore.  The Islanders out shot the Panthers 14-9 in the second period.

3rd Period- The third period was dominated by the Islanders they played a physical, fast paced, smart game and it looked like everything was going there way.  That was until, a clearing attempt from Mark Streit took an errant bounce off of Tomas Kopecky and directly to Tomas Fleischmann who beat Nabokov to give the Panthers a one goal lead yet again.  The expectation of losing another heartbreaker only lasted about two and a half minutes as the Islanders came down the ice on a rush lead by Kyle Okposo.  Okposo attempted to center the puck to the streaking Mark Streit in front of the Florida net but the pass never made it to Streit as it caromed off of Panthers' defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and past Theodore tying the game at 2. The Islanders out shot the Panthers 10-8 in the third period, making the regulation totals 33-33.  

Overtime/Shootout- The Islanders out shot the Panthers 4-2 in the overtime period but Nabokov and Theodore were perfect.  Theodore made two big saves to get the game to a shootout, one on David Ullstrom and one on Michael Grabner.  After five minutes the score was still 2-2 and the hockey portion of the game was over.  The Islanders went second but, as usual, turned to Frans Nielsen to lead off.  Nabokov was perfect through the shootout stopping John Madden, Wojtek Wolski, and Marcel Goc.  John Madden started things off and Nabokov stifled him with ease, Frans Nielsen followed and went to his patented Danish backhand.  Theodore was ready for the Danish forward's go-to move but Nielsen was able to sneak it off the short side post and into the net to seal the Islanders' victory. (Photo Credit: AP/Newsday) 

Closing Thoughts- The Islanders stayed mathematically eligible to make the playoffs by earning at least one point last night.  They did not get much help from Minnesota who lost to Washington 3-0.  While the Islanders are not definitely eliminated the what-ifs and have-tos are too much to get our hopes up for a run.  The Islanders are eleven points out, with seven games to play and one game in hand on the Capitals.  Stay close as the Islanders head in to Pittsburgh tomorrow night and look to put a dent in the Penguins' push for first.