Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers cough up lead in third period, lose to Islanders

Florida Panthers left wing Jiri Hudler (24) and New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey (14) skate after the puck in the second period of an NHL hockey game in New York, Monday, March 14, 2016.
Florida Panthers left wing Jiri Hudler (24) and New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey (14) skate after the puck in the second period of an NHL hockey game in New York, Monday, March 14, 2016. AP

The Panthers had a two-goal lead in the third period yet the way the Islanders were swarming around Roberto Luongo, it didn’t feel safe.

The Islanders turned their scoring chances into goals in the latter part of the third Monday night and came from behind to stun Luongo and the Panthers 3-2 at Barclays Center.

“They came out charging in the third, had a lot of chances and I was able to shut the door,’’ said Luongo, who stopped the first 23 shots faced before Kyle Okposo scored late in the third.

“But when they got the first one, the floodgates really opened. We have to be able to respond and keep our composure in times like those and, all year, we have done that.’’

New York took 11 shots in the opening 40 minutes, but scored on its 14th of the third period to finally break Luongo and make it a 2-1 game with 7:10 remaining.

The Islanders would score on two of their next four shots and take a commanding lead with 1:39 left as Cal Clutterbuck backhanded a shot past Luongo.

“They were pretty much in our zone the entire third period,’’ Luongo said. “We played a great first two periods but for some reason, things changed in the third. Obviously I need to make some more saves.’’

In the final seconds, the Panthers had a prime scoring shot as Jaromir Jagr just missed getting to a loose puck with goalie Thomas Greiss out of position enough to where Jagr would have tied it and forced overtime.

Instead, the Panthers watched victory (and the two points) get ripped away by an Islanders team they beat here 5-1 in December.

“I don’t know if we shut it down or what,’’ Nick Bjugstad said. “We needed to keep the pace. This was very frustrating. We were just sitting around, puck watching. ... We had such a high in the first two periods but things can change quickly in this league. This is one of the most disappointing losses of the year.’’

Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad talks after his team lost a two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn on March 14, 2016.

Florida, which had won its past two, took a 1-0 lead after Alex Petrovic fired a long pass from the side wall which Sasha Barkov deflected past goalie Thomas Greiss.

In the second, Bjugstad hammered a wrist shot at 8:03 to give the Panthers a 2-0 bringing the start to catcalls from the rafters as the Islanders looked listless.

Florida outshot the Islanders 18-11 in the opening two periods and looked confident and sharp.

Everything changed in the third.

New York came out flying and the Panthers didn’t offer much defense other than Luongo.

In the period, the Islanders not only took 17 shots on goal, but also doubled their shot attempts (missed shots, blocked shots) over the previous two periods. Florida only attempted 16 shots in the third compared to New York’s 31.

“We had a great 40 minutes, as good as you could play against a team like this on the road,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said.

Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant talks about his team losing a two-goal lead in the New York Islanders' 3-2 win in Brooklyn on March 14, 2016.

“Then we started to let them skate. It caught up to us in the final seven, eight minutes. We backed off too much, they took it to us.”

Florida now moves on to face a bruised and battered Montreal team one the Panthers need a few points from.

Unlike the Islanders -- who are precariously holding third place int he Metropolitan Division -- Florida’s next two games are against teams way out of the playoff picture.

“We have to forget about this one,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “You lose a game like this and you’re going to be ticked. They should be ticked. There’s no excuse for how we lost. But a good team will bounce back.”

Said Luongo: “When you have a two-goal lead with less than 10 minutes left and lose in regulation, well, it doesn’t get much tougher than that. But at this time of year, we have to be able to put games like this behind us and move on to the next one.”


Florida was without fourth-line center Derek MacKenzie on Monday and likely will be for the near future.

MacKenzie blocked a shot against Philadelphia in overtime Saturday with his foot; the swelling was still so bad Monday, he couldn’t put on his skate without being in major pain.

Gallant said Monday night that MacKenzie -- seen in the locker room on crutches and in a walking boot -- had a fracture and would be out at least a week.

“We won’t know until he gets an MRI when he gets home after the trip,’’ Gallant said. “Huge loss. He’s a big part of our group.’’

▪ Vincent Trocheck was named an NHL ‘star of the week’ for the second time in just over a month on Monday.

Trocheck was second star after scoring a goal with five assists in three games for the Panthers last week. Trocheck was honored as a third star on Feb. 8.

“It’s pretty cool to be honored,’’ said Trocheck, who had a goal with three assists for a career-high four points Thursday against Ottawa.

▪ Teddy Purcell is closer to rejoining the Florida lineup and is expected to play Tuesday in Montreal. Purcell suffered a groin strain in the first period of Florida’s loss at Arizona on Feb. 25 and has missed the past four games.

Tuesday: Panthers at Canadiens

When/where: 7:30 p.m.; Bell Center, Montreal.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640.

Series: Montreal leads 40-38-6.

Scouting report: Hard to believe, but the Canadiens once led the Panthers by 16 points in the standings this season. Montreal is now 15 points behind Florida. This is the second of four meetings between the two; the host Panthers won 3-1 on Dec. 29.

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