Islanders shut out at home in opener

Mark Eaton of the Islanders and Jack Skille

Mark Eaton of the Islanders and Jack Skille of the Panthers mix it up behind the Islanders goal in the second period. (Oct. 8, 2011) (Credit: David Pokress)

It was opening night -- a full Nassau Coliseum, a chance to get off to a good start and erase last season's injury-plagued slog of a year.

But after the puck dropped on the 2011-12 season, it looked as if the Islanders wanted to hit the snooze button.

Back on their heels and unable to get out of one another's way for the opening 20 minutes, the Islanders fell behind and weren't able to generate much offense in a 2-0 loss to the Florida Panthers before a sellout crowd of 16,234.

The one thing the Islanders weren't supposed to have trouble doing this season was scoring goals. "It wasn't pretty," Frans Nielsen said. "We tried to do too much out there instead of keeping it simple, which is what they did. It's not good enough."

Al Montoya got the surprise start in goal and allowed two goals in a 3:08 span late in the first period. But he made 27 saves and played well enough to give the Islanders a chance.

His teammates, however, didn't do much with any of their chances against the Panthers and Jose Theodore, who made 27 saves in his Florida debut. The Panthers had 11 new players on their roster but played a hard, simple game, chipping pucks deep and disrupting the Islanders' defense at every turn.

"We know we can play better," said Mark Streit, who struggled in his first regular-season game in 18 months and first as the new Islanders captain.

A giveaway by Streit behind his own net led to Stephen Weiss' goal. Brian Campbell fired a shot that Montoya stopped, but the puck bounced off Montoya's shoulder and lay behind him. Streit could not tie up Weiss long enough, and he swept it into the open net with 3:23 left in the first.

"They came out pretty hard and we didn't skate enough, we didn't use our speed," Streit said. "We got better as the game went on, but we didn't have a good start."

After three different Panthers crashed into Montoya late in the first, the Islanders somehow emerged down two men. Jason Garrison's point shot through a screen made it 2-0 with just under 15 seconds left in the first.

The Islanders weren't helped by a rough Coliseum ice surface that forced both teams to chip and charge. Only the Panthers were able to do that. The visitors also kept the Islanders to the perimeter, and Theodore didn't have much trouble with traffic or rebounds.

A couple of late second-period power plays loosened up the Islanders' attack -- they had the final nine shots of the second after trailing 22-8 in shots through 30 minutes -- but the creativity of the Islanders' top-end talent was missing.

"Our fourth line [Matt Martin, Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo] was our best line tonight," Jack Capuano said. "That's a credit to them, but our best players have to be our best players."

The Islanders get right back at it Monday when the Wild comes to the Coliseum for an afternoon game, the second of four straight at home to open the season. The building was alive after player introductions Saturday night, but boos dotted the silence as the Isles failed on too many rushes. "We have great fans and it was a special atmosphere," Travis Hamonic said. "Tonight happened. We need to put it behind us."

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