Patric Hornqvist’s goal 20 seconds after Noah Dobson’s equalizer 3:13 into the third period lifted the Florida Panthers to a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders in their season-opening game of the 2022-23 campaign.
It’s an inauspicious start to Lane Lambert’s career as Islanders head coach after taking over for Barry Trotz over the summer, as the familiar lack of offensive firepower that has plagued the organization for years reared its head into the new year yet again.
Down 1-0 and on their second power play of the night just 3:13 into the final period, Dobson tied the game with a seeing-eye shot from the right point that clinked off the crossbar and in after soaring over Sergei Bobrovsky’s glove.
The draw would last just 20 seconds, though, as Hornqvist put the Panthers back in front at the 3:33 mark when a turnover from the Islanders’ fourth line led to an innocent shot from the point that squirted out of Ilya Sorokin’s glove. Hornqvist was there for the rebound where he wrapped around the Islanders goal and stuffed it in.
It was the lone blemish of a solid day from Sorokin, who made 26 saves on 28 shots.
“It was a kick in the stomach,” Lambert said. “But we certainly weren’t deflated. We continued to battle and I thought we had a couple good opportunities to tie the game.”
“We just needed to close quicker and take away their time and space,” Dobson added. “When you give teams in this league time down low, they’re going to take advantage of it.”
One last push by the Islanders in the final two minutes led to a mad scramble in front, but Bobrovsky — who stopped 31 shots — kept it out. After subsequently trickling to the blue line, Dobson turned it over where new Panther Matthew Tkachuk slotted an empty netter to put it away.
Eetu Luostainen deflected a shot from the point past Sorokin to put the Panthers up 1-0 12:45 into the second period to highlight a frame from the visitors in which they thoroughly dominated the Islanders. New York was outshot 15-5 after they outpaced Florida 16-10 in the first period.
“[The penalties] took the flow of the game for everyone when you’re on the kill,” Dobson said. “The guys who weren’t out there were kind of just sitting don’t the bench but the PK’ers did their job.”
Lambert’s first game allowed a first glimpse into what the Islanders’ new-look, more-aggressive offense could potentially look like in 2022-23 with more attacking support coming from the blue line.
The likes of Dobson and Ryan Pulock found themselves pinching toward the Panthers’ net — the latter finding himself alone on Bobrovsky to try a deke to the backhand that was turned away inside two minutes remaining in the first.
Bobrovsky also stoned Casey Cizikas with the glove on a shorthanded breakaway earlier in the opening stanza when a full-length clear caromed off the netminder’s pads and into the path of the Islanders’ center, who was hanging by the blue line for a chance.
The Islanders created another shorthanded opportunity midway through the second when Cizikas fed Nikita Soshnikov, who was making his team debut and filling in for the recovering Cal Clutterbuck on the fourth line, on a 2-on-1 break from close range. The tight angle didn’t give the winger much to work with, though, as Bobrovsky’s pad was there to turn it away.
A staunch Islanders shorthanded unit managed to kill each of the five penalties assessed throughout the night — a slim silver lining against the NHL’s best offense from last season.
“I thought our penalty kill did a phenomenal job,” captain Anders Lee, who took two penalties, said. “We spent too much time in the box. First game of the year we were right in the game.”