The New York Islanders closed the door on the Florida Panthers Monday night. Afterwards, the Panthers closed the door to everyone else.
"What was said in there is going to stay in there," Panthers coach Terry Murray said. "You can't stand back and accept what you are seeing."
What Murray saw was poor play both with and without the puck, as Florida allowed the Islanders unimpeded chances at goalie Sean Burke.
"We were giving up a lot of turnovers," Murray said, "and there was fatigue from too long line shifts."
After giving up a power-play goal to Bryan Smolinski 71 seconds into the game, the Panthers tied the score on Rob Niedermayer's power-play goal off his right skate at 5:36. And the Panthers even took the lead at 2:41 of the second period when Bill Lindsay stuffed a shot past New York goalie Tommy Salo.
| The Islanders didn't have to celebrate much, because the Panthers made it too easy. (AP) |
Smolinski tied the score at 9:07, poking a loose puck past Burke. And then it was Robert Reichel who did the damage for the Islanders.
Coming out of the pealty box after an unsportsmanlike penalty, Reichel chased down a clear from teammate Trevor Linden. Burke came out to play the puck and Reichel poked it away. He then controlled the puck behind the net and managed to beat Burke to the right corner with a wraparound move.
"Burke tried to play the puck behind the net, and I got my stick on his stick," Reichel said. "Good things happen when you work for them."
Linden scored with 51.4 seconds left in the period, but the Panthers were still in the game.
Reichel scored 81 seconds into the final period and Claude Lapointe added a goal at 10:30.
Murray was upset that the last two goals were scored in similar fashion: both players were left uncontested in the low slot and Burke was left to fend for himself.
"Our physical play in our own zone was non-existent," Murray said. "It's not as though the Islanders were making all these fancy plays. We feel that tonight we beat ourselves -- not to take anything away from the Islanders."
Florida defenseman Gord Murphy said responsibility is the key for the Panthers to start playing better.
"All of us have to be responsible," Murphy said. "We have to mentally be better and come together as a group."
The Islanders -- for one night, anyway -- can claim a first-place tie with the Flyers in the Atlantic Division (6-5-0-12). They also can claim a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference, along with Philadelphia and Ottawa.
New York's last visit to the top position was on Oct. 5, 1997, with a 1-0-1 record. Smolinski said it was too early in the season to key on such a feat.
"Someone will win tomorrow and jump back up top anyway," he said.
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