The New York Islanders led 3-0 after 40 minutes, allowed the Florida Panthers to tie the game, but won 4-3 in regulation Saturday at BB&T Center. With the win, the Islanders conclude a three-game road trip and move above .500 to 13-12-3.
Casey Cizikas’ fourth goal of the season on a feed from Colin McDonald gave the Islanders a 4-3 third-period lead and proved to be the game-winner. Evgeni Nabokov, who blanked Tampa Bay on Thursday, extended his shutout streak to 111:19 before allowing the first Panthers goal. The Islanders netminder turned aside 27-of-30 shots to record his 13th win of the season.
“We had to make a push,” McDonald said of the game-winning marker. “I thought we did well responding to adversity. Hopefully we can learn from that. We can’t let those kinds of breakdowns happen because need every point possible. It was a good that we rallied there in the third to get the game-winner.”
Late in the first period, a Kyle Okposo one-timer put the Islanders ahead 1-0. Frans Nielsen made a pass from the goal line to Okposo, who was coming in from up high in the zone and beat Florida goaltender Scott Clemmensen at 15:26.
Two minutes later, Radek Martinek’s second goal of the season put the Islanders ahead by two. Mark Streit’s backhand feed found Martinek at the blue line, whose slap shot went through traffic and behind Clemmensen.
Just 33 seconds into the middle frame, the Islanders extended their lead to three. John Tavares and Brad Boyes attacked the Florida zone in transition, and Boyes’ centering pass from the right wing was headed for Matt Moulson but glanced off Panther Tomas Kopecky’s skate and across the goal line.
Nabokov held the Panthers off the board for two periods, but Florida struck three times in a span of 1:43 to tie the score in the third.
Five minutes into the third stanza, a trio of Panthers hacked away at a loose puck in front of Nabokov before TJ Brennan scored from the slot to cut Florida’s deficit to 3-1. Marcel Goc scored on a one-timer from Tomas Fleischmann 34 seconds later, forcing Jack Capuano to call the Islanders timeout.
However, Mike Santorelli scored on a rebound opportunity at 6:52 to knot the contest at 3-3. Jack Skille took the blue line, and moved around an Islanders defenseman before shooting the puck twice off Nabokov. The second rebound came out at the other side and Santorelli tapped the puck in.
The teams were deadlocked for six minutes until Cizikas broke the tie. A strong forecheck by the line of Cizikas, Keith Aucoin and McDonald forced the puck onto McDonald’s stick behind the Florida cage. McDonald’s pass found Cizikas in the left circle, who dropped down low to one-time the puck into the net at 12:55.
“We established a good forecheck, we got the puck deep and got good puck control,” Cizikas said. “Coiner made a simple play behind the net to Mac, and Mac made a nice read. I saw two guys going to him and he just stepped out to the other side and found me.”
“That line was good – they grinded it out and got us a big goal,” Capuano said of the Cizikas’ line. “They play the right way. They grind it out. They play below the goal line and they get to the back post. It turns the goalie as well as the d-zone coverage. We had that a little bit in the first couple periods but we got away from it. Give them credit – they worked extremely hard and got to the net.”
Clemmensen was pulled for the extra attacker with 1:33 remaining, but neither team scored down the stretch. The Islanders conclude the road trip with two straight wins following a 6-1 loss Sunday at Pittsburgh.
“I think that Sunday game against Pittsburgh was an eye-opener for us,” Cizikas said. “It’s nice for us to get these two points tonight. We’ve just got to continue that at home now. We’re fighting for that seventh and eighth spot, so we definitely can’t be giving up points. We have a big home stand coming up, and it’s something we’re looking forward to.”
The Islanders will face the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, March 19 at Nassau Coliseum. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m.
Notes: The win brings the Islanders within two points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference … Winnipeg beat Toronto 5-4 in overtime, bumping former Southeast Division-leader Carolina from 3rd to 8th in the standings … The Islanders were not awarded a power play all game long, marking the third time in the last eight contests they went 0-for-0 on the man advantage … The Islanders penalty kill was 1-for-1 … 12 different Islanders found the score sheet, all recording one point apiece … Brad Boyes has goals in three straight games, and nine points (four goals, five assists) in his last seven contests … All four of Cizikas goals this season have tied the game or given the Islanders the lead, but tonight’s tally was his first career game-winning goal … Andrew MacDonald led the team with 23:02 of ice time and had a game-high four blocks … Eric Boulton and George Parros were each assessed five-minute fighting majors in the first period … The Islanders won the faceoff battle 27-24, led by Marty Reasoner (8-for-13, 62%) … The Islanders out-hit the Panthers 40-26, with Matt Martin’s eight hits leading the way.
New York Islanders
60 Kevin Poulin
11 Jonathan Huberdeau - 15 Drew Shore - 88 Peter Mueller
14 Tomas Fleischmann - 57 Marcel Goc - 82 Tomas Kopecky
52 Jonathan Rheault - 18 Shawn Matthias - 12 Jack SKille
13 Mike Santorelli - 25 Jerred Smithson - 22 George Parros
51 Brian Campbell - 44 Erik Gudbranson
17 Filip Kuba - 55 Ed Jovanovski
3 TJ Brennan - 23 Tyson Strachan
30 Scott Clemmensen
35 Jacob Markstrom