Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun, makes a save during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders Friday, Dec. 7, 2007, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
When the Panthers play as they did Friday night here at BankAtlantic Center against the Islanders, anything is truly possible.
Firing 41 shots on goal, using their speed to pressure the opposition and showing more intensity than they have in a week, the Panthers and goalie Tomas Vokoun snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-0 victory.
But it was the way the Panthers did it Friday that made you stand and take notice.
Not once did they resemble the lethargic group that played against Washington last week or the one that refused to shoot the puck Wednesday against Ottawa.
From the opening minute, the Panthers fired the puck at goalie Rick DiPietro and carried the play into the Islander end. No hesitation. No doubt. The Panthers best defense was a high-intensity offense and it showed in the final game summary with goals from Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton and an empty-netter by Olli Jokinen.
“Overall, it was a strong effort,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin.
“Solid,” is how Olli Jokinen described the Panthers play.
In fact, the Panthers were all over the Islanders. They had outshot the Islanders 30-13 through the first 40 minutes and their hard work was rewarded with seven power plays, two power goal goals, and Vokoun’s second shutout of the season.
“I think that was one of our stronger games,” said Vokoun after recording his 23rd career shutout.
“We need to play that way every night,” said David Booth, who had a strong performance alongside Weiss and Richard Zednik. “We’re capable of doing that, and if we do we’ll be in the playoffs and be in contention until the end.
“At this level, I think you have to come to the rink prepared every day. Sometimes your mind might be elsewhere. That’s why every night is not exactly like this. I think if things don’t go our way right at the start, I think we panic. Maybe that’s why we don’t win the games against Washington. But tonight everybody responded well.”
The Panthers had plenty of jump from the start. After failing to create much offense in their previous two games, the Panthers took 14 shots at DiPietro while holding the Islanders to a season-low four shots on the goal.
The Panthers created several opportunities in the scoreless first period, their best coming three minutes into the game when Kamil Kreps stole a pass inside the Islander blue line and skated in alone on DiPietro. Unfortunately, Kreps hit the post.
The Panthers got another shot at 6:41 of the second period when Stephen Weiss was given a penalty shot after being hauled down by Bryan Berard. But DiPietro, who was extremely strong on this night, spread out his right pad to stop a Weiss backhander.
Weiss wasn’t deterred, however. Just 1:59 later on the power play, Weiss scored his fourth goal of the season when he circled off the boards into the high slot and wristed a shot high over DiPietro’s glove.
It was 1-0, and the Panthers would never relinquish the lead.
Things got better for the Panthers at 3:31 of the third period when Horton picked up the rebound from a Bryan Allen shot on the left side of the Islander net and slowly – ever…so…slowly – circled to the right side of the net before wristing a shot past a fallen DiPietro.
Horton’s goal was huge. Not only was it his first goal in eight games – only his third in 17 – but it gave the Panthers the cushion they needed.
After surviving two power plays midway through the period which included a couple big Vokoun saves and two hit posts, the Panthers sealed the deal when Jokinen raced down the ice with seconds remaining and slid the puck into an empty Islander goal.
“Shooting the puck whenever we can is something we have to do on a regular basis,” Martin said.
“I think we had determination,” said Ville Peltonen. “We kept it going. We were shooting the puck and doing it all game long. Attacks were going toward the net all the time. It’s not only a good way to create chances, but it’s also a safe way to play, a good defensive tactic, too. Keep the puck going ahead.”
And keep moving forward.
Vokoun, awarded the Panther ‘Hero Cape,’ presented the cape to the equipment staff…Defensemen Ruslan Salei and Jay Bouwmeester both cracked twenty minutes of ice time…After being shoved into the board by Islander captain Bill Guerin early in the second period, Bryan Allen and Guerin dropped the gloves at 15:52 of the period. Both were given five minute fighting penalties…The Panthers, who had only two shots from their defensemen Wednesday against Ottawa, had 10 shots against the Islanders…
1 - 0 FLA
2 - 0 FLA