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ISLAND LOSS: Islanders Keep on Winning, Roll Panthers 5-2 ... Cats Meet Dr. J, Mr. Hockey In the House ... Mueller Leaves, Strachan Misses Third

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Ever since the Panthers last came here on March 24, the Islanders have been on quite a tear -- one that's helped put them in good position to end a five-year postseason drought.

Tuesday night, the Islanders kept rolling toward the playoffs as they scored three times in the first and ended up beating up the Panthers 5-2 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

New York remained seventh in the Eastern Conference with the victory -- it's ninth in 12 games since beating the Panthers in March. The Islanders are an impressive 9-1-2 during that span. Florida has lost three straight.

"There was a playoff-feel about it, at least on their side,'' Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "If you aren't believing it, what's going to happen is what happened. Every game we play right now is going to be against a team incredibly hungry for something moving forward.''

The Islanders celebrated fan appreciation night a touch early as Tuesday was their final home game of the regular season. New York will play five road games to end the year and with a few wins, the Isles won't say good bye to the Colisieum for the summer just yet.

Fresh off an exciting 1-0 overtime loss to the Rangers in which the old barn was rocking like 1982 on Saturday, the Isles jumped all over the Panthers. New York had a 3-0 lead after Michael Grabner scored with 3:13 left in the first.

The Panthers made it a 3-1 game with 1:48 left in the first when Dmitry Kulikov's heavy wrister on a power play beat Evgeni Nabokov.

Florida got no closer. The Islanders scored on consecutive shots from Radek Martinek and Grabner 14 seconds apart in the second to make it 5-1 and send an angry Jacob Markstrom to the bench.

The Florida rookie gave up five goals on 18 shots then slammed his mask to the ground in anger once he made it to the bench.

"It's not fun right now, I'm struggling right now,'' Markstrom said. "It's not been good enough. .-.-. It's never fun to lose. It's embarrassing to be pulled.''

The Panthers cut the deficit back to three with four minutes later lwhen Marcel Goc took a feed from Tomas Kopecky and dumped the puck into a net emptied when Nabokov came out and couldn't get back in time.

Nabokov went down for a bit after banging his head into the cage after getting tangled up with Scottie Upshall and Lubomir Visnovsky. Nabokov finally got up, shook things off and resumed play. Nabokov ended with 26 saves.

HELLO DR. J

The Panthers and Islanders got a surprise visitor to Tuesday's morning skate as Julius 'Dr. J' Erving was at the Coliseum to film part of his upcoming documentary to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 76ers 1983 NBA title.

Erving played for the New York Nets of the ABA during the early days of the Coliseum before the team moved to New Jersey.

Defenseman Brian Campbell was one of a few Panthers who got in a few words with the legendary hoopster. Campbell called it "a thrill.''

"As special as he was before Michael, Magic and Bird; Dr. J was the man,'' Dineen said. "He is just a great ambassador for sports. It was a special deal.''

'The Doctor' will air on NBA TV on June 10 during the NBA Finals.

-- A hockey legend was also in the building as Gordie Howe, known affectionately as 'Mr. Hockey,' watched the game from the press box. Howe, 85, was with his son Mark - the director of pro scouting for the Red Wings who lives nearby.

-- Panthers winger Peter Mueller travelled with the Panthers to Long Island and took part in the morning skate. Yet he wasn't there Tuesday night as he flew back to South Florida to be with his wife Taylar [cq] as she was expected to give birth to their first child at any time.

Defenseman Filip Kuba (lower body) also missed the game but is on the trip. Tyson Strachan (upper body) left Tuesday's game in the second and didn't return.

Comments

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#1 overall pick, here we come...

Only if we win the lottery. If not we will pick second even if we finish last. Just to clarify.

This is just painful to watch now.

You can't really blame Markstrom, the defense in front of him has been really bad. There needs to be a major upgrade to the defense if this team wants to win next year. I like what Campbell and Brennan bring to the game. Gudbranson has his moments and I assume will get better, it was a rough year for him. He better train this summer and stay away from water games. Kulikov needs to make better decisions the jury is still out on him. Strachan, Weaver and Kuba are not that good and if basically the same defense is in the line-up next year the season will be another stinker. And for the record this team needs more than a Seth Jones to improve on D.

Exactly, I'll take that #1/#2 (Jones/McKinnon) and be very happy heading into next season. Rookies got some valuable experience for next year, we'll start the seaosn with hopefully everybody healthy, and we'll have another stud rookie.

Already looking forward to Next Year!!

Campbell sucks.He is such a liability defensively. Where is petrovic?

Defense is not just about the d-men. When we have all the right players in the lineup things will fall into place.

I will say this to Tallon, if we do get the first or second pick - please take a sniper like Drouin! Defense is not what we need.
Look at the Capitals, different team when Ovi is scoring. We need a player like that who can move the focus up ice away from our own end. Just saying. Players like Ovi, Kovalchuk etc only comes along on a rare occasion. This years draft has a couple it seems. Let's get one!

My dream scenario; we get the first pick. Trade down one or two spots and get a first round pick and a good player in return AND then draft Drouin. Now that would be something.

Peps, Drouin is not Ovi or Kovy. Jones is the pick if they get the #1 overall.

I know he is a great pick but I don't think Jones is the right pick for us. I an not saying anyone is going to pan out in the draft but going for a sniper is what we need more than a defensive juggernaut(he is compared to Chris Pronger).
We have had no offensive star on this team since Pavel Bure and that is over a decade ago. I am tired of going to games the last 10 years + knowing we have to keep opponents from scoring if we want a chance to win. Right now only New Jersey and Nashville has scored less goals than us and it is only by a handful.
Picking Jones will continue that trend. I believe we have god enough prospects and d-guys on the team
already and if we can give Hubie and the others some help scoring we can become an offensive force which is a lot more fun to watch if you ask me.

Also it is way to early to say if a draft pick is going to be as good as anyone believe. I was merely saying that Drouin could be a star scorer given time and a better pick for us. He has all the tools and we need the excitement.

Also our struggles on defense this year has little to do with what we have. Last year we had god defense but we where in the bottom of the league in scoring as we have been every year since the Russian rocket was here. Just sayin. Time for a different approach.

I hear ya, but the reality is, the only way we don't pick Seth Jones is if we get the #2 pick. Then I still think it's McKinnon. As long as it's Top 3, I'll be happy.

ESPN Insider Article npw has McKinnon 1, Drouin 2, and Jones 3 in terms of Prospects...not a mock draft, but prospect ratings. Pretty interesting...

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