The islanders needed something to get them through before Christmas. After their game on Friday night, they have even more injuries to deal with and they’re still below the playoff line — but they’ve at least gotten a win.
After falling behind the Panthers, the Islanders came back strong to claim a 5-1 victory at UBS Arena in their last game before the holiday break. Given how the Islanders have been struggling lately, losing five of their last six heading into Friday, they’ll take both points, but it comes at a cost.
Star center Brock Nelson left the ice for good at 8:13 of the second period after a punt attempt by Alexander Romanov hit him in the head. Nelson was quickly followed by winger Simon Holmstrom, who was helped off the ice with three seconds left in second after a knee-to-knee collision with Florida’s Sam Bennett.
The Islanders were already missing five regulars: Casey Cizikas was ruled out overnight with an upper-body injury, while Kyle Palmieri and Semyon Varlamov joined Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech on the disabled list. Partly because of that, center Aatu Räty and defenseman Parker Wotherspoon made their NHL debuts on Friday.
Three days off for the holidays will serve the Islanders well as they try to get some of their players back in time to face the visiting Penguins on Tuesday. What the Islanders had on Friday, however, proved to be more than enough.
Räty ended up providing the dagger goal, stepping into the slot and firing the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky at 7:10 of the third period to extend the Islanders’ lead to 3-1. Just 1:11 later, Zach Parise bowed the win, beating Bobrovsky with a backhand to make it 4-1.
Anthony Beauvillier added a fifth goal with a count in an empty net at 15:50 of the third, his second of the evening.
The Islanders scored twice in the second period to take a 2-1 lead as Beauvillier netted his 100th career goal on Noah Dobson’s rebound slot at 5:20. Ryan Pulock broke the tie 1-1 at 19:15, beating Bobrovsky with a creative shot from the right wall that flew over the goalkeeper.
After a poor first period in which the Islanders failed to convert four power plays totaling 6:28 and let Matthew Tkachuk clean up Brandon Montour’s shot in the slot to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead , the next 40 minutes gave the Islanders a much-needed reprieve.
The break is also necessary. It’s not just injuries, it’s also been the Islanders’ 4-6-2 record since Nov. 29. The Islanders improved the situation a bit on Friday, but it’s been a long week and a reset wouldn’t hurt. , even after a solid game against the Panthers.
The two points they earned against Florida kept them on pace with the Capitals for the final playoff spot in the East. But with Washington beating Winnipeg, the Islanders remained two points behind.
At least they grasped the most important positive news they could deliver at the break: a much-needed victory.