SUNRISE, Fla. — The Islanders are limping home. But, at least, this season-opening 13-game road trip has finally come to an end and their next game will be at the new $1.1 billion UBS Arena.
The Panthers sent them to their fourth straight regulation loss, scoring four times in the first period of a 6-1 decision on Tuesday night at FLA Live Arena. The Islanders were missing top-pair defenseman Ryan Pulock (lower body) and Josh Bailey, who was placed in COVID-19 protocol after testing positive but remaining asymptomatic.
"It’s turned into a little bit of a long nightmare the last little while here," coach Barry Trotz said. "We’ll open that arena, hopefully it’ll give us some new energy, a new focus. Be honest, it hasn’t been easy. We’ve got to play better."
The last-place Islanders (5-6-2) have scored just six goals in their last five games while allowing 19 over the last four games. Ilya Sorokin, left unsupported too often, lasted just the first period as he faced 17 shots before Semyon Varlamov (17 saves) relieved him. Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves for the Atlantic Division-leading Panthers (11-2-3).
"It definitely was tough," Casey Cizikas said of the extended road trip, necessary to allow UBS Arena to be completed enough to open. "But there’s no excuses. We can’t play like that to finish this road trip."
The Islanders, who lost 4-1 to the two-time defending Stanley Cup-champion Lightning on Monday night, have given up at least four goals in four straight games for the first time under Trotz. They were down to five defensemen on Tuesday after Scott Mayfield was issued a five-minute major for kneeing Aleksander Barkov and a resulting game misconduct at 1:47 of the second period. Barkov, unable to put weight on his right knee, did not return.
"We’re definitely upset with our play," Cizikas said. "It’s not easy. But be upset about this tonight, get home and be ready for that home opener. It’s time to pick it up and play our game. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this, is playing hard."
The Islanders will christen their long-awaited modern building on Saturday night against the Calgary Flames.
In all, the Islanders played 13 road games over 34 days, spending 19 of those nights in hotels. Tuesday was the second trip to Sunrise.
"There’s a ton of belief in this room," said Kyle Palmieri, who got below the right circle to make it 5-1 at 15:00 of the second period as he scored his first goal of the season. "There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves. It’s the end of the road trip. Go home, take a deep breath and we’ve got two big games this weekend."
Jonathan Huberdeau opened the Panthers’ first-period barrage, getting free at the right post at 6:58. Ryan Lomberg made it 2-0 at 14:40 as he was left open at the right post to slam in the puck.
"I thought we really sagged once they scored the first goal," Trotz said. "I didn’t feel like we were under too much duress, but we sagged. That’s part of being a little bit fragile. I haven’t said that too often. We were squeezing it. Some of the mistakes that we’re making, they’re on us. We’re playing almost good hockey and really bad hockey."
Carter Verhaeghe’s goal to complete a three-on-two rush pushed it to 3-0 at 16:04 after Sorokin made the first save on defenseman Brandon Montour. Patric Hornqvist completed the first-period scoring at 18:13, lifting the puck between the near post and Sorokin’s mask from a sharp angle on the left.