The Islanders let a 3-1 lead slip away in the third period, but killed a crucial penalty in overtime and battled back for the shootout win. Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves in regulation, including nine in overtime and stopped two of three shootout opportunities.
“Good teams find a way to win,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “Discipline hurt us, we took some stick infractions, but our penalty kill came up big tonight.”
John Tavares, Ryan Strome and Nikolay Kulemin scored three unanswered regulation goals for the Islanders, who improved to 11-5-0. The Islanders shutout streak was snapped Friday, as a first-period goal from Jimmy Hayes halted the second-longest streak in team history at 193:48, five and a half minutes shy of a new record.
The Panthers led 1-0 after the first period, but the Islanders got on the board in the second thanks to Tavares’ seventh goal of the season. The Islanders captain one-timed a cross-ice feed from Okposo past Roberto Luongo at 13:09 of the second period.
Strome put the Islanders ahead two minutes later, burying his second goal of the season on a breakaway. The goal was set up on a home-run feed from Thomas Hickey, who sent a pass from behind the Islanders goal line to Strome at center ice. Strome skated in alone, froze Luongo with a head fake and slid the puck underneath his pads.
Kulemin added to the Islanders lead 3:57 into the third period, driving to the net, wrestling a Johnny Boychuk rebound from Luongo and powering the puck past the Panthers netminder. Kulemin’s goal was his second in as many games – third overall – and his first even-strength goal as an Islander.
Kulemin also hit a crossbar and Nielsen had a shorthanded breakaway, but neither could convert, setting up the Panthers comeback.
Brian Campbell cut into the Islanders lead with a power-play goal at 9:58, while Aaron Ekblad tied the score late, beating a screened Halak with 2:35 to play in regulation.
“We didn’t panic tonight,” Okposo said. “That’s going to happen sometimes. Florida is a very hardworking team, they are a young team and Luongo’s one of the bets goalies in the league. Maybe in years past we let that extra point slide, but tonight we did a good job of sticking with it.”
The Islanders wrap up their back-to-back, Florida road trip Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Islanders are 5-0 this season in back-to-back games. Puck drop at Tampa Bay Times Forum is at 7 p.m.
NOTES: Jaroslav Halak recorded his first point (assist) and penalty (leaving the crease) as an Islander… Nine different Islanders hit the scoresheet… John Tavares led all Islanders with four penalty minutes… Anders Lee had a team-high four shots.