As Travis Hamonic put it, this was a weird one.
The Islanders outshot the Panthers 19-2 in the first period last night, kept at bay only by Roberto Luongo.
The Panthers responded with three goals on six shots in the second against Jaroslav Halak, breaking open a scoreless game on the way to a 5-1 win over the Isles, who were puzzled as their 10-game point streak went by the boards.
“I don’t know if I’ve been a part of a game like that in a long time,” Hamonic said. “We gave up some goals but I thought we did a lot of good things. We’ve been on a pretty good run here of late and you’ve got to stay positive.”
The Islanders can afford to wipe this one away quickly after having their 8-0-2 run snapped. Luongo was quick with his glove and turned aside all 19 shots in the first as the Isles ran over and around the Panthers. The Isles had a four-on-three power play in the final minutes of the second for their best chance to break through, but there wasn’t enough traffic in Luongo’s grill to get the veteran goaltender off his game.
“We maybe could have been hungrier to get bodies in front,” John Tavares said. “We did a lot right.”
That changed in the second. With the shots at 20-2, the Panthers finally got a scoring chance and converted. Halak made a save through a scramble of bodies but lost his balance as he searched for the puck, letting Reilly Smith blast one to a wide open net just 1:51 into the second for Florida’s first goal on its fourth shot.
A rare miscommunication between Frans Nielsen and Hamonic left a loose puck on Aleksander Barkov’s stick as he cut toward Halak and his backhand made it 2-0 at 7:25.
Jack Capuano decided in the early minutes of the second period to shuffle his top three forward lines, putting Josh Bailey with Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Despite the wide gap in shots and chances, the coach felt he could sense his team needing a jolt.
“Just tried to trigger something,” he said.
It did work, briefly, with Brock Nelson deflecting Marek Zidlicky’s pass behind Luongo off the rush at 12:37.
But the Islanders played some lax defense off the ensuing faceoff. Aaron Ekblad grabbed a pass in the high slot with no Islanders in close contact and snapped a shot through Halak’s pads at 12:57, snuffing out a potential rally.
That was Florida’s third goal on its eighth shot. Halak led the team out to start the third but Vincent Trocheck found some space in the slot to snap one over Halak’s shoulder at 1:23 to salt it away.
“We’ve got a lot of hockey coming up and he wants to stay in there and battle,” Capuano said as to why he kept Halak in. “I’m sure he’d want one or two of those back but he’s been there for us all year.”
Luongo finished with 33 saves. The Islanders head off today to Denver and Glendale, Arizona, for a brief trip, ready to put this odd outcome behind them.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job here lately of setting ourselves up to play Islander hockey,” Hamonic said. “We’re not going to get down. We did a lot of good things here.”