New York Islanders (42-21-3) at Florida Panthers (28-23-14)
|Date & Time||Saturday March 7, 2015, 7:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: Florida Panthers +143 / New York Islanders -158 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
It might not have been a game that the New York Islanders deserved to win, but as they battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division they’ll take two points any way they can get them. New York was dominated during the first period on Thursday night against the Nashville Predators but a couple of clutch goals put them in good shape nonetheless. John Tavares scored his 31st goal of the season and Anders Lee added his 22nd of the year on the power play to give the Islanders two goals on five shots in the period. It looked as if things would stay that way but the Islanders struggle of finishing off periods continued once again. Nashville converted with just two seconds remaining in the period to cut the lead in half. The Islanders then came strong in the second period, out shooting the Predators 12-5, but neither team was able to register a goal. Nick Leddy increased the lead in the third period with a lucky goal off a ricochet to give New York the 3-1 lead. Everything was looking good until the Predators struck quickly, scoring twice in a 31 second span to even the score. But the Islanders came right back and just over three minutes later it was Brock Nelson with his 18th of the year and the eventual game winner. Jaroslav Halak made some big saves in this one and finished the game with 28 saves for his 34th win of the year. The victory puts the Islanders back into first place in the division, two points ahead of the second place New York Rangers.
The Florida Panthers enter Saturday’s contest two points behind the Boston Bruins for the final wild card berth in the Eastern Conference. Both clubs have struggled of late but the Panthers have really missed a chance recently to overtake Boston. Now the Ottawa Senators with the outstanding play of goaltender Andrew Hammond are right on their heels as well. Florida has lost six of their last eight games and the last two have been arguably the most frustrating. Losing games to Pittsburgh and Chicago is understandable, but losing games on home ice to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars is unacceptable if you’re going to make the post season. Thursday night it was a slow start and an inability to finish that ultimately did the Panthers in against the Stars. Dallas jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period and Bradon Pirri got the Panthers back to within a goal with his 13th of the season at the 17 minute mark. Florida then took the lead in the second period on goals from Dmitry Kilikov and Jonathan Huberdeau, but they couldn’t hold on in the third. The Panthers tried to tighten up defensively and they did a fine job, allowing just eight shots on goal. But it came with a price as they managed just two shots on goal themselves and eventually gave up the equalizer with under eight minutes to play. After a scoreless overtime period Pirri, Vincent Trocheck, and Nick Bjugstad were all denied in the shootout and the Stars got the only go for the 4-3 win.
New York is a favorite in this and deservedly so, but they haven’t played well enough lately to think that this will be a cakewalk. The Islanders should be able to take this one but they’ll need to get off to a quick start.