If there had been more than the sparse crowd on hand at Nassau Coliseum last night, the Islanders would've been hit with a hurricane of boos. But with the paltry attendance (listed as 10,489), the team was lucky to escape with an understated shower of discontent after a humiliating 7-1 loss to the Florida Panthers.
The Islanders repeatedly turned the puck over and were punished for their recklessness and lackadaisical play as the Panthers shoved each and every mistake down their throat.
"To be honest, I thought we were a team that forgot we were playing tonight and was looking forward to the Rangers games this week,'' goaltender Dwayne Roloson said.
Trailing 3-1 after two periods, the Islanders gave up four goals in the third in what might have been their worst loss of the season. Their seven goals allowed, three by Nathan Horton, represented a season-worst figure.
"Probably the worst game of the season so far,'' Mark Streit said. "We were just awful tonight.''
In that atrocious third period, they essentially handed over two goals in the first 55 seconds, prompting Scott Gordon to replace Roloson with Martin Biron. Roloson was not the same goalie who has been stealing games lately, but the Islanders didn't do anything to reciprocate for the many times he has bailed them out.
The Islanders (12-14-7) lost for the fourth time in five games. They have scored only eight goals in the five.
The first gift-wrapped goal of the night came after Michal Repik surprised defenseman Bruno Gervais at the blue line. Repik stripped him of the puck before beating Roloson on a backhanded breakaway at 14:28 of the first to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Bridgeport call-up Jesse Joensuu, who scored in his first NHL game last season, scored in his second game with the Islanders this season to make it 2-1 only 84 seconds later.
Joensuu parked his imposing 6-4, 207-pound frame in the crease, where he converted Trent Hunter's well-placed pass from behind the net at 4:17.
The Islanders took a major blow later in the period, however, when they gave up a shorthanded goal on their first power-play opportunity.
After more than a minute in which the Islanders had the man advantage, during which they looked feeble and disorganized, Horton picked off Streit as he struggled to keep it in the zone. Horton lifted one over Roloson's left shoulder at 12:40 for his second goal and a 3-1 Panthers lead.
But as stunned as the Islanders looked then, it got worse.
Forty-two seconds later, an odd-man rush resulted in Kamil Kreps' first goal of the season, making it 5-1 and bringing on Biron. He couldn't stop the bleeding, though, as the Panthers piled on with goals by Horton and Radek Dvorak.
"It's tough to just turn the page,'' Streit said. "I think every player needs to do some soul-searching tonight, go home and think about what just happened.''