New goaltender, same story early. Jose Theodore returned from injury today to make his first start in goal in three weeks, giving Scott Clemmensen a well earned break.
Frans Nielsen put the Islanders up early, just four minutes into the game scoring his 10th goal of the season with assists from PA Parenteau (38) and Andrew MacDonald (6).
Tyson Strachan would net the equalizer for the Panthers with five minuter remaining in the period, scoring his first career goal with an assist from center Marcel Goc (10).
With just two minutes remaining in the period, Florida would give the Islanders their first power play chance of the game. Sean Bergenheim was called for holding Steve Staios, but Florida would effectively kill the penalty off, skating into the break with seven seconds left to kill.
The first line combined to put the Panthers up, 2-1 with four minutes gone in the second when Stephen Weiss (27) and Kris Versteeg (26) set up Tomas Fleischmann on Evgeny Nabokov's stick side for an easy goal. It was Fleischmann's 18th goal of the season, good for second on the Panthers.
Florida would have their first power play of the game at the midway point of the period, when Matt Martin was called for roughing Erik Gudbranson. Florida rolled out four forwards for the man advantage. Tomas Kopecky screened Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov while Kris Versteeg snapped one by him to double the Panthers lead. It was Versteeg's team leading 22nd goal. Tomas Fleischmann (24) and Brian Campbell (35) earned the plays' assists.
Jack Skille added to the Florida lead in his first game back from injury with a wrist shot, gathered straight off the Shawn Matthias (12) faceoff for his third goal of the season.
After allowing four goals on 15 shots through the first two periods, Evgeny Nabokov was pulled in favor of Al Montoya to mind the Islanders net in the third.
New York opened the period looking frisky, putting five shots on Jose Theodore through the first five minutes. They also were victimized by several blocked shots and a few missed.
At the seven minute mark, Fleischmann beat Nabokov but lost to the goal post, narrowly missing his third multi-goal game of the season, and his first since netting two against the Montreal Canadians on New Years Eve.
Erik Gudbranson was called for an obvious penalty, hooking PA Parenteau at the 10 minute mark. The Cats cleared it out and Tomas Kopecky almost scored a shorthanded goal, with only a stickless John Tavares to stop him. Montoya was equal to the task. Florida kept the puck out of their own zone for a large portion of the New York man advantage.
Florida shut down the Islanders for the rest of the game without much effort needed. Both teams were on the tail end of a back to back series. Florida clinched the season series, with one game to play.
Hits: Islanders, 26-20 (Tyson Strachan led all skaters with five, while Matt Martin led the Islanders with four.)
Blocked Shots: Panthers, 22-11 (Keaton Ellerby and Tyson Strachan each tallied five blocks for Florida. Frans Nielsen had three to lead New York.)
Faceoffs: Panthers, 28-23 (Marcel Goc won 13 of 22 faceoffs, John Tavares won nine of 24 for New York.)
Shots on Goal: Islanders, 27-19 (John Tavares led the Islanders by a wide margin with seven. Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky had three tries each to pace the Panthers.)
Score: Panthers 4, Islanders 1