5 Takeaways: Panthers Face Adversity Again in Loss to Islanders
by Jameson Olive
December 12, 2019
SUNRISE, Fla. – The Florida Panthers aren’t used to struggling to find the back of the net.
After scoring at will for the majority of the season, the Panthers struggled to light the lamp for the second straight game in a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders at BB&T Center on Thursday.
Entering tonight’s matchup averaging the fourth-most goals per game in the league (3.43,) the Panthers have scored just one goal in each of their last two contests. In the four games prior to that two-game slump, they’d found the back of the net a combined 14 times while going 3-1-0.
“We didn’t create enough good scoring chances,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. “We had a couple, but not as much as we wanted. We’ve just got to play better offensively and spend a little less time in our own zone… We’ve just got to get in the offensive zone and stay there.”
Following a scoreless opening frame, the Islanders broke the ice 49 seconds into the second period on a power-play goal from Devon Toews. Shortly after that, New York was sent right back to the man advantage, where Mathew Barzal scored to double the lead to 2-0 at 4:40.
At 9:36, Mike Hoffman beat Thomas Greiss on a 2-on-1 break to cut Florida’s deficit to 2-1.
With three seconds left in regulation, Anders Lee potted an empty-netter to lock in the 3-1 final.
Greiss finished with 32 saves for the Islanders, who saw their record improve to 21-7-2 with the win, while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 of 29 shots for the Panthers, who now sit at 15-11-5.
“We just didn’t have our best game in this game,” Barkov said. “Obviously they’re a really good team. They play tight defense and have a really good offense. We just couldn’t get really going, but it was still a tight game. [Bobrovsky] was really good in net and gave us a chance to win.”
Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s loss in Sunrise…
1. HOFF THE RAILS
Hoffman netted the lone goal for the Panthers tonight.
After Brett Connolly chipped the puck out from along the boards, Mark Pysyk batted it down with his glove and headed up the ice on a 2-on-1 break with Hoffman on his left. Taking a pass from Pysyk, Hoffman then buried a wrist shot to cut Florida’s deficit to 2-1 at 9:36 of the second period.
Panthers fall to Islanders, 3-1
05:01 • December 12, 2019
“A crisp pass right on the tape,” Hoffman said of Pysyk’s dish during a second-intermission interview with FOX Sports Florida. “I tried to get it off quick and was able to beat the goalie.”
Extending his point streak to four games, Hoffman has registered two goals and three assists in that span. Ranking second on the Panthers in goals (12), the 30-year-old winger also leads the team in shots (93) and has the fifth-most points (23).
2. CONN THE MIC
In addition to his assist on Hoffman’s goal, Connolly also contributed to tonight’s broadcast.
To hear what an intense battle in the crease sounds like, or if you’re curious about what is said on the bench, check out FOX Sports Florida’s mic’d up segment with the veteran winger below.
In his first season with the Panthers after joining the team on a four-year contract this summer, Connolly has looked like one of the biggest free-agent steals of the offseason. As it stands now, the 27-year-old winger leads the team with 14 goals, while also ranking sixth in points with 22.
Over his last 12 games, Connolly has scored a team-high eight goals.
3. BOB BACK AT IT
Even in defeat, Bobrovsky was lights out once again for the Panthers.
After making a season-high 46 saves in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 31-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 29 shots against the Islanders. With both of his goals-allowed coming while New York was on the power play, he finished a perfect 23-for-23 at even-strength.
“He was solid right off the bat,” Quenneville said. “In the first period he was good; in the second period, busy. He had a solid game.”
Starting the last four games, Bobrovsky has certainly settled into a groove between the pipes. In that stretch, he’s denied a combined 136 of 142 shots for an outstanding .958 save percentage.
“My job is to give the team a chance to win,” said Bobrovsky, who owns an 11-8-4 record in his first season with Florida. “I try to do my best to do that. It was still a good hockey game. It was a tight game and fun to play. Again, we’re going to forget that one and get ready for Boston.”
4. THE POSSESSION BATTLE
The difference in tonight’s game came down to special teams.
While the Islanders went 2-for-4 on the power play, the Panthers didn’t convert on any of their three chances. Entering tonight, Florida had netted four goals on the man advantage over its previous four contests and sat seventh overall in the league with a 23.4 percent success rate.
At even-strength, however, the game was a lot closer.
In addition to outscoring the Islanders 1-0, the Panthers had more shot attempts (45-42) and high-danger shot attempts (4-3) at 5-on-5, while also finishing tied in scoring chances (12-12).
Overall, Panthers coach Joel Quenneville wants to see his team spend more time with the puck.
“I don’t think we had our puck management,” he said. “Our puck management wasn’t very good – our puck support, our pace. [New York] won those battles. We needed more possession time.”
5. SATURDAY SHOWDOWN
We’ve got a big one this weekend.
Just over a month after piecing together an historic comeback in a 5-4 shootout win at Boston on Nov. 12, the Panthers will host the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins in Sunrise on Saturday.
Owning a 20-7-6 record, the Bruins will enter the game looking to shake out of a season-long, five-game skid following a 3-2 loss across the state tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After tonight’s loss, Florida is 3-3-0 on their current nine-game homestand.
“As you go through a season the games get more important and more important,” Quenneville said. “You find out about what it’s going to take to win important games. We’ve got to learn to find a way to step up to the plate when it counts and, right now, everything counts.”