The Islanders needed something to go their way before Christmas. After their game Friday night, they have even more injuries to deal with and they’re still below the playoff cutline — but they did at least pick up a win.
After falling behind early to the Panthers, the Islanders surged back to take a 5-1 victory at UBS Arena in their final game before the holiday break. Given how the Islanders have struggled lately, losing five of their last six heading into Friday, they’ll take the two points, but it came at a cost.
Star center Brock Nelson left the ice for good at 8:13 of the second period after an attempted clearance by Alexander Romanov hit him in his head. Nelson was soon followed by wing Simon Holmstrom, who was helped off the ice with three seconds to go in the second after a knee-to-knee collision with Florida’s Sam Bennett.
The Islanders were already missing five regulars: Casey Cizikas was declared day-to-day with an upper-body injury, while Kyle Palmieri and Semyon Varlamov joined Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech on injured reserve. Partially as a result of that, center Aatu Räty and defenseman Parker Wotherspoon made their NHL debuts on Friday.
Three days off for the holidays will serve the Islanders well as they try to get some of their players recovered in time to play the visiting Penguins on Tuesday. What the Islanders had on Friday, though, turned out to be more than enough.
Räty ended up providing the dagger goal, walking into the slot and sniping the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky at 7:10 of the third period to extend the Islanders’ lead to 3-1. Just 1:11 later, Zach Parise put a bow on the win, beating Bobrovsky off a backhand to make it 4-1.
Anthony Beauvillier added a fifth goal with an empty-net tally at 15:50 of the third, his second of the night.
The Islanders scored twice in the second period to grab a 2-1 lead as Beauvillier notched his 100th career goal from the slot off Noah Dobson’s rebound at 5:20. Ryan Pulock broke the 1-1 tie at 19:15, beating Bobrovsky with a creative shot from the right-side wall that fluttered past the netminder.
After a poor first period in which the Islanders failed to convert four power plays totaling 6:28 and let Matthew Tkachuk clean up Brandon Montour’s shot in the crease to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead, the ensuing 40 minutes gave the Islanders a much-needed reprieve.
The break is needed as well. It’s not just the injuries, it’s also the Islanders’ 4-6-2 record since Nov. 29. The Islanders made that look a little bit better on Friday, but it has been a long few weeks, and a reset wouldn’t hurt, even after a solid game against the Panthers.
The two points they earned against Florida kept them on pace with the Capitals for the last playoff spot in the East. But with Washington beating Winnipeg, so the Islanders remained two points behind.
They did, at least, grab the most important piece of positive news they could carry into the break: a much-needed win.
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