Barzal lifts Islanders in shootout
SUNRISE, Fla. — New York Islanders rookie center Mathew Barzal wanted a chance at his first NHL shootout attempt ... so he did the only think he could think of — he kept his eyes trained on his coach, Doug Weight.
Barzal’s plan didn’t work at first. Weight chose Jordan Eberle, who was stopped by goalie James Reimer, and John Tavares, who fell, got up and also got stuffed.
“Johnny (Tavares) slipped on a banana peel,” Weight joked.
Finally, after three Florida Panthers had failed to score a shootout goal, Weight turned to Barzal, and the 20-year-old Canadian delivered, giving the Islanders a wild 5-4 win on Monday night at the BB&T Center.
“He wouldn’t stop staring at me as I picked the first two guys,” Weight said when asked why he chose Barzal. “I wouldn’t look at him.
“He’s a confident kid. He was excited. He wanted to get out there.”
New York, which entered Monday with the highest-scoring offense in the NHL at 3.72 goals per game, took advantage of an injury to opposing goalie Roberto Luongo, who left in the second period due to an injury.
The Islanders, who have scored five or more goals 13 times in 26 games, provided great offensive support for goalie Jaroslav Halak, who made 39 saves.
New York (16-8-2) also got scores from Anders Lee, Thomas Hickey, Brock Nelson and Tavares. Lee’s goal was No. 100 in his career.
Luongo, fourth in NHL history with 459 wins, was removed from the game with 17:29 left in the second period. He appeared to injure his right leg while making a kick save on a shot by Ryan Pulock.
Florida replaced Luongo, who had allowed just 18 goals in his past nine games, with backup Reimer, who inherited a 1-1 score and took the loss.
Reimer said losing Luongo was a tough blow emotionally.
“My first thought was that he was going to get up, and you hope it’s just a minor tweak,” Reimer said. “It’s never fun when you see your partner go down. I’m hoping for the best for him, and, at the same time, you’re trying to get yourself into the game.”
The Panthers (10-13-4) got goals from Keith Yandle, Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov and Denis Malgin.
Panthers coach Bob Boughner, who said Luongo was “hobbling” after the game, said more will be known about the injury on Tuesday.
“It’s a pretty traumatic thing,” said Boughner, referring to the team’s emotions following the loss of Luongo.
Early on, though, the Panthers were looking good.
Florida opened the scoring with 10:25 elapsed in the first period. Yandle pounced on a loose puck, unleashing a shot from the point that beat Halak glove-side.
The Islanders tied the score three minutes later. Lee grabbed a rebound off the end boards and beat Luongo between his pads.
There were five goals scored in the frantic third period.
Reimer had only been in for three minutes when he allowed a soft goal by Hickey, who shot the puck from the side boards. Reimer fought the fluttering puck and managed to block it before accidentally kicking it into his own goal with his right leg.
Florida surged back with its power play. After failing to score with a two-man advantage, the Panthers, still on a 5-on-4 power play, got a goal by Ekblad, who used a Jonathan Huberdeau screen to tie the score 2-2.
Barkov’s power-play goal gave Florida a 3-2 lead, but New York closed the period with the goals by Nelson and Tavares, which came just two minutes apart.
Florida tied the score 4-4 with 5:06 expired in the third period. Vinny Trocheck won a puck battle along the end boards and passed the puck to Malgin, who scored from the slot.
That was the last puck that went in until Barzal got the call from Weight.
“I didn’t have a move — I just tried to read (Reimer),” Barzal said. “I got in tight, and I went to my backhand. I threw a couple of hesitations in there, but he didn’t bite. I was lucky to get the backhand up.”
If Barzal was lucky, Weight, 46, was relieved.
Asked about the emotional win, Weight muttered: “I’m too old for this.”
NOTES: Islanders C Casey Cizikas (four goals, four assists) missed his third straight game due to a lower-body injury. ... Florida moved RW Nick Bjugstad to the top line, along with C Aleksander Barkov and LW Jonathan Huberdeau. Bjugstad replaces Evgenii Dadonov (shoulder), who is out at least four weeks. ... Panthers RW Denis Malgin, who played on the top line for the first two games after Dadonov was injured, has been moved to the second unit with C Vincent Trocheck and LW Jamie McGinn. ... Florida scratched LW Henrik Haapala, LW Dryden Hunt and D MacKenzie Weegar. ... The Islanders scratched D Dennis Seidenberg and D Scott Mayfield.