NOW, THE ISLANDERS JUST CAN'T LOSE
By BARRY BAUM
Islanders 3 - Panthers 0
SUNRISE, Fla. - Butch Goring remembers the gloomy post-game press
conferences from last season.
"We talked a lot about losses," the Islanders coach said.
But lately, though, the conversation has changed.
Continuing their remarkable improvement, the Islanders extended their
unbeaten streak to six games (5-0-1) and their winning streak to four
as they throttled the Panthers 3-0 before an apathetic crowd of 13,371
at the National Car Rental Center last night.
"I don't think we're quite ready to win the Stanley Cup yet," Goring
said. "But we're headed in the right direction."
In improving to 5-3-2-0, the Isles are enjoying their longest unbeaten
streak since they also reached six games during the 1994-95 season
(4-0-2) This is also their first time winning four straight since the
The Islanders last night beat goaltender Roberto Luongo, whom they
dealt to the Panthers during the offseason. Luongo, who made 28 saves,
has often stated his bitterness at the Isles and GM Mike Milbury for
giving up on him after just his rookie year.
In dropping to 0-4-2-0, Luongo said he was upset he failed to have a
better showing, but not just because he it was the Islanders.
"I'm just disappointed I still don't have a win no matter who it's
against," the 21-year goalie said.
Brad Isbister, meanwhile, continued to be one of the league's biggest
bargains ($385,000 this season) when he scored his fifth goal of the
year, this one coming on the power play, with 1:38 left in the second
Isbister, who scored an empty-netter in Tuesday's 4-2 win over the
Bruins, split Pavel Bure and Paul Laus in the slot en route to beating
As for Roman Hamrlik, he continued his All-Star push when his wicked
slapper from the right point on the power play gave the Isles a 2-0
cushion just 17 seconds into the third. With six goals this season,
Hamrlik leads the league for defenseman, and is just two shy of his
output from last season when he played 80 games for the Oilers.
Some of the fans began heading to the Florida Turnpike when Mats
Lindgren (first of the season) made it 3-0 with a shorthanded goal
with 11:03 left in the third. It was the Isles' fourth shorthanded
goal of the season, putting them in a three-way tie for the league
As usual of late, the Isles' defense was particularly solid, holding
down Bure, who scorched them for seven goals in four games last
season. Goaltender Wade Flaherty was also impressive, making 23 saves
and recording his first shutout since April, '98.
After sitting out most of last year with a dislocated shoulder,
Flaherty is now 3-0 this year.
"He's done all that you can ask from a goaltender," Goring said.
With 19-year old rookie LW Taylor Pyatt playing in his ninth game of
the season last night, the Isles must decide if they will send him to
juniors or keep him on the roster. Under league rules, if an 18- or
19-year-old plays at least 10 games, his three-year contract would
slide and he would have two years remaining, moving him closer to
restricted free agency. If the player, however, is sent back to
juniors before his 10th game, he would still have three years left on
Pyatt, whom the Isles selected with the No. 8 overall pick in the '99
Entry Draft, signed a $3.075 million deal. He has no goals and one
assist, while averaging about 51/2 minutes of ice time.
The Isles head to Tampa to face the Lightning tomorrow night before
returning to the Coliseum for Sunday afternoon's meeting with Ziggy
Palffy and the Kings. It will be Palffy's first game at the Coliseum
since the Isles traded the high-priced star to Los Angeles after the
Dave Scatchard said that he played Tuesday night's game against the
Bruins with extra motivation. On Sunday, his grandfather, Jack Beare,
died at age 67 in Alberta.