Panthers Blow Another Lead, Stay in Pre-Playoff Funk vs the Islanders

Panthers Blow Lead Islanders

Aleksander Barkov (📸Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

Sunrise, FL – The Florida Panthers looked like they were back on track after their two-week skid that’s seen them go 1-4-1. They outshot the New York Islanders 5-0 in their first few shifts on Thursday night, and got on the board first with a goal by Vladimir Tarasenko. It was his second in three games and his third consecutive night recording a point. Just 24 seconds after that, the Islanders had their would-be first goal taken off the board due to goaltender interference. However the Panthers blow another lead, continuing in their bad form vs the Islanders, losing 3-2.

The Islanders got that goal back with 6:40 to go in the first period when Ryan Pulock was left alone in the top of the right face-off circle and fired a wrister past Panthers goalie Anthony Stolarz.

Tied at 1-1 halfway through the second period, the Panthers and Islanders traded goals. Barkov, on a nice feed from Reinhart from the top of the face-off circle to the crease, and another by New York on a shot by Pulock that deflected off Mathew Barzal’s stick and into the net.

The Islanders scored again on a hectic play in front of the net. Sam Bennett tripped and Stolarz was pushed down by his own defenseman in Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Jean-Gabriel Pageau took advantage and ripped a shot into the back of the net to take the penultimate 3-2 lead.

Anthony Stolarz stopped 21 of 24 shots he faced. It was an uncharacteristic night for the backup goaltender after allowed one goal in each of his last two games and came into Thursday with a .927 save percentage.

Panthers struggling to hold leads

The Panthers lost the lead within minutes of both of their goals. This is following a pattern in which they blew leads in their losses against the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers over the last five days.

For a team that prides itself on suffocating defense and not letting go of leads, this can be concerning, especially with about two weeks left before the postseason.

I think we’re playing hard,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said after the game. “We need to play hard all the time. Every shift. And sometimes mistakes happen by playing hard. I don’t think anyone is doing the wrong thing. We’re just playing hard and mistakes are coming there. So we’re just learning from that. We’ll watch some video and tomorrow will be better.”

Panthers back in the playoffs

Minutes after the Panthers and Islanders went final, the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the wild card hopeful Detroit Red Wings, thereby assuring the Panthers will be back in the postseason.

Although the Panthers guaranteed a spot in the playoffs for the fifth-straight year (far and away a franchise record), head coach Paul Maurice didn’t care to celebrate after the disappointing loss.

“I’m just a grump old man,” Maurice said. “So I’ll answer them all tomorrow. I don’t feel like talking about good things right now.”

At the end of the night on Thursday, the Panthers are two points behind the Bruins for the Atlantic division lead with a game in hand.

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