Sometimes things are worth the wait. You can throw the debut of the new-look Florida Panthers into that category. The Panthers scored two late first period goals and that was all they would need in the 2-0 win over the New York Islanders as Jose Theodore answered his critics with a shutout. Theodore had been called out a bit by head coach Kevin Dineen after allowing 12 goals in two appearances in the preseason, but that performance seemed like years ago as the veteran goalie kept all 27 shots out his net.
Stephen Weiss opened the goal scoring for the season as he outworked Isles captain Mark Streit to tip-in a rebound of a Brian Campbell shot with just under four minutes to play in the first. About three minutes later, Jason Garrison one-timed a feed from Campbell past Al Montoya on a 5-on-3.
Last season, a 2-0 first period lead meant Panthers fans gnawed on their nails while waiting for a 2-0 lead turn into a 3-2 loss. Not Saturday. Theodore was forced to make a few tough saves on the penalty kill early in the third, but wasn’t seriously challenged for much of the period. The Panthers skaters did their best to help by staying out of the penalty box, save for a Sean Bergenheim hook early in the frame.
The Cats also did a great job keeping the Isles big guns at bay. John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner only managed five shots between them, and Grabner and Moulson were particularly invisible.
Overall, the Panthers, not surprisingly, looked like the faster, stronger team then they were a season ago. David Booth and Jack Skille made just about everybody seem like they were standing still and used that speed to create some chances.
Some notes and observations from Saturday’s game:
– If there was a lack of chemistry, it wasn’t readily apparent on this night. All of the lines played well and Dineen rolled four lines most of the night. The defense pairing seem to be a good match thus far.
– It was a quick debut for Scottie Upshall, who got into a fight late in the first and was given a game misconduct for not having his jersey fight strap attached. The good news is he got into the scrap while coming to the defense of Tomas Kopecky.
– New players on the penalty kill? No problem. The Cats killed off all three Isles power plays. On the PP, they wet 1-for-5 with Garrison getting the 5-on-3 goal.
– Some ice-times of note: Brian Campbell led all Panthers with 30:04, including 6:29 of power play time. Stephen Weiss led all forwards with 19:05. Garrison and Dmitry Kulikov also logged more than 20 minutes. Erik Gudbranson logged 10:59 in his NHL debut, including just under a minute of PP time. Matt Bradley was on the ice for 9:20, including some key shifts in the third. Last season, that would NOT have happened.
– No matter the roster, this team still can’t buy an empty netter! Kris Versteeg, who assisted on Garrison’s goal, had the best opportunity, but his attempt hit off the outside of the post right before time expired.
Check out the recap from the Islanders point of view on Eyes On Isles.
The Panthers return to action Tuesday night in their only nationally televised contest in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, who will make their home debut after a three game Western Canada road trip.
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