When Andy MacDonald scored six minutes into Sunday’s game, few inside the Nassau Veterans Coliseum could have guessed that would have stood as the winning goal.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, that one goal was enough to beat them.
Florida’s scoring woes continued Sunday as the Islanders got MacDonald’s early goal then tossed two more into an empty net late to snap a three-game losing streak with a 3-0 win against the Panthers.
The Panthers have now been shut out five times and have scored one goal or fewer in 13 of 33 games this season.
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Florida finishes this five-game roadie Tuesday in Toronto. Before Sunday, the Panthers hadn’t been shut out since the Leafs did it on Feb. 18. The Panthers have lost two in a row after opening the trip with wins in Carolina and New York.
“We’ve given up four goals in the past three games,” coach Kevin Dineen said, adding he doesn’t count the empty-net ones.
“We have to find some production and encourage some of the plays that are creating chances. But we need some finish right now. We need some opportunistic guys to see the opportunity to produce right now.”
The Panthers didn’t offer Jacob Markstrom much support, again, as he has given up 23 goals during his nine starts this season. The Panthers have scored just 20 goals in those games.
Sunday, Markstrom was sharp for much of the night as New York’s first goal came with Filip Kuba serving a penalty as MacDonald rifled in a shot from 35 feet out on the Islanders’ fourth shot of the night.
“It was a tough game for us,” said Markstrom, who is 3-6-1 and made 34 saves Sunday. “We had a good push at the end but we couldn’t get the puck in. It’s a hard way to lose.”
Evgeni Nabokov faced just four shots in the opening period and made a total of 26 saves to earn his 55th career shutout.
The Islanders’ goal total was pumped up by empty-net goals by John Tavares with 31 seconds left and Casey Cizikas with 13 remaining.
“It’s frustrating. We didn’t have the greatest start, but we had chances in the second and third,” Shawn Matthias said. “It felt like we were right there in the end. We had them running around. We just couldn’t get it done.”
Colby Robak admitted he had a bit of a sleepless night not knowing whether he would face further discipline from the league for his soft shove of New Jersey’s Tim Sestito on Saturday.
Sestito lost his balance and rammed into the glass and ended up leaving the game midway through the third period. Robak was hit with a five-minute penalty for cross-checking and was ejected from the game. The league did not offer up any more penalties, and Robak played Sunday.
“It looked a lot worse than I anticipated it would be,” Robak said. “We were going for a puck and I thought I’d give him a nudge on the hip to get a step on him. I guess I pushed him a little harder than I thought. It’s not something you want to see.”’
Winger Jack Skille left Saturday’s game with a mysterious “upper body” injury Dineen did not expound on. Dineen said Skille was sent back to South Florida to be checked out by doctors and that the injury was something “that happened a couple days ago. He’s not sure.”
Skille missed big chunks of last season with shoulder injuries.
Greg Rallo, who played in one game with the Panthers last season, was recalled from AHL San Antonio. Rallo leads the Rampage in goals with 22.
Matthias said he didn’t know how many stitches it took to close a large cut above his left eye after being struck by a puck Saturday night. The area around Matthias’ eye is discolored and swollen. He said he couldn’t open it Sunday morning.
Matthias not only returned after being stitched up Saturday but played 23 shifts Sunday.