While nothing seems to be going right for the NHL-worst Florida Panthers, the New York Islanders are starting to turn things around.
The Panthers try to avoid losing six straight for the first time in two seasons Saturday night when they host the Islanders, who have had a rough time in this series.
Giving up a league-high 3.7 goals per game, Florida (7-15-6) has been outscored 22-8 during an 0-4-1 skid. The Panthers have fallen behind in each of those contests, dropping to 1-13-4 when their opponent scores first.
“We’ve got to find a way to get some puck luck and get that first goal,” coach Kevin Dineen told the team’s official website. “Just keep searching for the answers and obviously there’s a lot of try right now. I think these guys are pushing as hard as they can and that’s the answer to our problems right now.”
Florida’s woes continued Thursday in a 4-1 loss at Boston. The Panthers trailed 1-0 less than four minutes in and 2-0 after 20 minutes before Shawn Matthias provided all the offense with a short-handed goal.
“We didn’t play that well,” said Julien, whose team has gone 0 for 16 on the power play in eight games this month. “Some nights we seem to be in sync, and lately we’ve been a little off our game. So certainly not the way we want to play or certainly not our best game, let’s put it that way.”
The Panthers, who haven’t lost six straight since an 0-7-3 skid March 19-April 8, 2011, will try to bounce back in their first matchup against the Islanders (12-12-3). Florida has gone 15-3-3 against New York since March 2007, including a 9-0-2 run at home.
After going 4-9-1 last month, the Islanders improved to 4-1-1 in March with Thursday’s 2-0 win at Tampa Bay. Evgeni Nabokov made 18 saves for his second shutout and John Tavares tallied his team-leading 17th goal.
“We found a way,” Brad Boyes, who scored an empty-netter and added an assist, told the team’s official website. “That’s what we’re learning how to do this season.”
The Islanders improved to 10-2-1 when scoring at least one power-play goal and have won six straight when converting on the man advantage.
“We had good movement,” Boyes said. “That’s what our strength is on the power play – our movement. Guys moving around, moving the puck and shooting the puck.”
Both of Nabokov’s shutouts have come on the road, where he’s gone 7-2-1. He has, however, allowed at least three goals in seven of those other eight games. Nabokov went 1-2-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average in three starts against the Panthers last season.
Florida’s Jacob Markstrom and Scott Clemmensen continue to fill in for the injured Jose Theodore. Clemmensen stopped 28 of 31 shots Thursday, dropping to 2-4-2 with a league-high 4.15 GAA. Markstrom is 1-5-1 with a 3.29 mark.
The Panthers, who recently lost Stephen Weiss to a season-ending wrist injury, will also be without Kris Versteeg for the rest of the year. The left winger suffered a knee injury during Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay.
Florida, though, could get a boost from captain Ed Jovanovski, who’s hoping to return Saturday following a 22-game absence due to a knee injury. The veteran defenseman has one assist in five games.