The New York Islanders had no business winning Monday against the Florida Panthers, and they know it.
You hear the well-worn cliche of teams having to play "a full 60 minutes" to win hockey games all the time. It's a tired phrase from players, coaches, GMs and journalists alike, but it certainly rang true for the Panthers as they saw the lead they built in two periods evaporate in just five minutes and 31 seconds of game play.
The Islanders could well have been spectators at their own game with just 11 shots on goal through the first 40 minutes. Florida seemed primed and ready to take a well-needed two points out of the Barclays Center until it too forgot to heed the age-old hockey cliche.
Instead, the Islanders scored three times in the final 20 minutes -- including a backbreaking goal with 1:39 to play in the game -- to keep the top spot in the Atlantic out of the claws of the Panthers.
After the hot streak that catapulted them to the top of their division, the Panthers slowly have been coming back down to earth at quite an inopportune time. With a 4-4-2 record in their last 10, Florida nowhere near resembles the team it was just a few months ago. Roberto Luongo has cooled off -- in just one of his last five games, he had a save percentage better than .900 -- and the scoring hasn't been as consistent as it was in the past.
Even so, the Panthers were -- and still remain -- one point from the No. 1 spot in the Atlantic, which the Boston Bruins now hold for the time being. While they're not in danger of slipping out of the playoffs, Florida squandered a huge chance to take control of the Atlantic and alter its first-round matchup. These points could come back to haunt them in a few weeks time when they're facing their state rivals from Tampa Bay instead of a much weaker crew from Pittsburgh.
Islanders 3, Panthers 2
Kings 5, Blackhawks 0
Flames 7, Blues 4
Predators 3, Oilers 2
Jets 5, Canucks 2
Ducks 7, Devils 1
* * *
Get the biggest NHL news, rumors and analysis in your inbox every morning!
* * *
3 things we learned
1. The Kings caught the Blackhawks napping
It's bound to happen as a team looking at another easy route to the postseason, but Los Angeles definitely caught the Blackhawks on a rare off day as they were taken to task with a five-goal shutout. Even so, the rare off day for Chicago has turned into sort of a mini-slump. With a 4-5-1 record in their last 10 games, the Blackhawks are now a full three points behind the Stars and Blues at the top of the Central. There's no real reason to hit the panic button yet, Blackhawks fans, but you best hope they sort themselves out or they'll be mighty cold headed into the postseason.
2. James Neal came away with the victory versus the Oilers
It was essentially a one-man show for the Predators, who bested the Oilers by a score of 3-2 on Monday. James Neal tallied all three goals for the visiting Predators and carried Nashville out of Edmonton with two points. The hat trick was the sixth of Neal's career and he's a big reason as to why the Predators are in the hunt for a top three spot in the Central once again.
With a hat trick in a 3-2 @PredsNHL victory, James Neal single-handedly won the hockey game. #RoadWarriors @Vegashttps://t.co/CXraPyCJ38— NHL (@NHL) March 15, 2016
3. Routs were in abundance all evening
The Kings shutout the Blackhawks, 5-0. Calgary put up seven on a visiting St. Louis squad that had come into the match on a six-game tear. The Jets handed the Canucks a 5-2 loss and the Ducks allowed just one goal in their 7-1 victory over the Devils. And they say scoring is down across the NHL!
It had no real standing in terms of the game, but Jacob Markstrom saved a goal with just his bare hand, which may be one of the coolest -- yet most dangerous -- things we've seen this hockey season.
Stat of the Night
The Predators have set a single-season team record for most hat tricks with four (Weber, Forsberg 2x, Neal).— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) March 15, 2016
Post to Post
- Kris Versteeg scored his first as a King against his old club in Chicago, conveniently where he won two Stanley Cups. How's that for a homecoming?
- Connor McDavid is still magic even when he's not out there scoring goals. The Predators found out first hand what it was like to give the No. 1 overall pick a bit of open ice.
- It was a big night for assists, as Dougie Hamilton made Sean Monahan's second goal of the night happen thanks to a beautiful 80-foot stretch pass.