Goaltender Rick DiPietro returned to the New York Islanders lineup in top form for his first start since suffering facial fractures from a Brent Johnson punch on Feb. 11. His 29 saves between regulation and overtime and two stops in the shootout, lifted the Islanders to a 4-3 shootout win over the Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center.
“A big emotional win like that gets the boys together,” forward PA Parenteau said.
It was unquestionably emotional. After an overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes the night before, the team really rallied for each other. In the shootout, the Islanders bench showed support for DiPietro, Parenteau and Frans Nielsen by turning their helmets around.
The rally caps seemed to work as DiPietro made two saves, stopping both Mike Santorelli and Sergei Samsonov, while Nielsen scored five-hole on Scott Clemmensen to give the Isles a 1-0 lead. Parenteau solidified the win with a shot that went top shelf.
Nielsen opted not to use his patented move to instead shoot five-hole, but Parenteau said variety is a good thing.
“You have to get a couple moves because the goalies around the league are going to start knowing (what you’re going to bring),” Parenteau said. “I’ve got one go-to move, so I’m going to have to find another one soon enough. It’s a big win for the team. A big goal from Fransie and I got to go for the winner.”
If it wasn’t for DiPietro’s performance, the game could have ended in overtime. With 29.9 seconds left on the clock, David Booth drew a penalty shot after he was hooked by Andrew MacDonald. But DiPietro maintained his positioning and Booth’s shot went wide.
PA Parenteau #15 of the New York Islanders shoots and scores the winning goal in a shoot out against Goaltender Scott Clemmensen #30 of the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center on March 19, 2011 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
“I think he played really well,” Parenteau said about DiPietro’s play. “He made some good saves with the puck. He hasn’t played for a while, so he showed a lot of character tonight. Everyone likes him in this locker room, so we’re happy for him to get the win.”
The game started off on the right foot. After a scoreless first period, the Nielsen and Michael Grabner duo earned another shorthanded tally. Along the boards, Nielsen found Grabner rushing into the high slot from the neutral zone, giving the Isles rookie a clear view of the net at 5:14; the goal lifted Grabner to the 30 goal milestone.
“It’s nice not to have to worry about it (the milestone) too much. Hopefully now I can relax a little," Grabner told Katie Strang of Newsday. “It was a great pass from (Nielsen). He’s a play-maker. It’s easy to play with him.”
The goal could potentially hold more weight for Grabner, since he started the season with the Panthers franchise and was later traded to the Islanders after having a poor showing at training camp.
“(It’s) nice to get it here, obviously,” Grabner told Newsday. “But at the same time, I’m just trying to help the team and it doesn’t matter who I score the goals against.”
Before closing the second period, Evgeny Dadonov scored twice to send the Panthers ahead 2-1. But at 7:09 of the third period, Parenteau collected a rebound from Clemmensen and tied the score at two.
Then, with a full length rush from the defensive zone, Micheal Haley reclaimed the Islanders lead as he shot a puck five-hole at 9:50. It wasn’t enough to steal the win; Stephen Weiss tied the score at 13:26.