The Panthers and Islanders aren’t the same teams they were last spring when the two met in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Not only are there new players, new uniforms (for Florida) and even a new Honda parked off ice at Barclays Center, but their spot in the standings have changed as well. It looks like one — or perhaps both — will miss the postseason this year.
On Wednesday night, the Panthers kept the Islanders’ rough season going with a 2-1 win.
Florida, which beat New Jersey 3-0 on Monday night, heads home only to get another shot at the Islanders on Friday at BB&T Center.
“We have other things we’re worried about right now,” said goalie Roberto Luongo, who made 29 saves in the win.
“We’re focused on winning games, but it did feel a little weird walking into the building this morning, that’s for sure.”
The Panthers went 2-0 on their New York-area road trip; the Islanders head south having lost their past three games as they sit in last place in the entire Eastern Conference.
The Panthers, who lost 4-2 in the playoff series to the Isles last April, have won the first two games of the season series this season.
On Wednesday, Florida finally put some pucks past Thomas Greiss — who stoned the Cats in the playoffs — as the Panthers never trailed.
Florida took the initial lead less than six minutes in when Vincent Trocheck fed Keith Yandle with a back-handed pass, and Yandle teed off and blasted a shot past Greiss.
“It was a big road game,” Yandle said. “Sometimes it’s not pretty, but sometimes when you have a guy like Luongo kicking the way he has all year, you just have to find the goals for him.”
The Islanders tied things up by the first break after Nick Leddy’s wrister beat Luongo midway through.
In the second, Florida defenseman Jason Demers — who, like Yandle wasn’t around for last year’s opening-round playoff series — let a shot fly from the right circle, and it worked its way through traffic and past Greiss.
The goal was a career-high eighth for Demers, who also kept the game tied at 1 in the first period when he punched a puck out across the goal line and out of harms way.
“We have to hold onto the leads at this time of the year,” Demers said. “Our goalies have been great all year, but we’re figuring out we have to play defense, too.”
Not only did he set career highs with 25 goals and 53 points last season but he also signed a large, six-year contract with the Panthers and played at the World Cup of Hockey.
On Tuesday, the 23-year-old center was named to his first All-Star team. Trocheck says he will take a number of family members and his girlfriend to Los Angeles for the festivities.
“It has been a whirlwind,” Trocheck said. “It went from zero to 100 real quick last season. It has been a lot of fun. ...
“Now I get to go to L.A., have some fun and play with guys who are in a world of their own.”
Said interim coach Tom Rowe: “He had a great year, and we’re all proud of him. He’s one heck of a competitor and that matches the skill that he has. That makes him a good player and a dangerous player.”
▪ The Islanders honored longtime television voice Jiggs McDonald before and during Wednesday’s game. McDonald, who called the game marking his 50th season in the NHL, dropped the first puck and was presented with a bronze microphone and a custom Islanders jersey.
McDonald, who has filled in on numerous broadcasts over the years, also called games on the radio for the Panthers and has filled in on television as well.