After Friday's 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov told reporters he needed to be better if the Isles were ever going to snap out of their funk on home ice.
On Sunday, he was much better.
Nabokov made 26 saves, Andrew MacDonald scored a power-play goal and the Islanders defeated the Florida Panthers 3-0 on Sunday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to salvage the finale of a four-game homestand.
It was Nabokov's third shutout this season for the Islanders, who moved within two points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference despite having won only six of 19 home games this season. New York went 1-3-0 on its homestand.
After losing their three previous home games by faltering in the third period, the Islanders shut down the Panthers, who have the NHL's worst record at 9-18-6.
"Consistency is the word we preach," Nabokov said. "It's not like it hasn't been there, because it has, but we have to make sure we get the results that we want. I've been saying this, and it sounds cliché, but it's not easy to win. Sometimes you need a little bounce here, a bounce there. Today, we made sure the bounces were on our side."
MacDonald scored his second goal of the season at 6:05 of the first period on the power play. With Filip Kuba in the box for tripping, MacDonald took a pass from Frans Nielsen and rifled a shot from just inside the point past Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom. It was fifth straight game in which an Islander defensemen has scored and MacDonald's second of the season.
"It was a pretty tough homestand for us," MacDonald said. "Obviously, we weren't happy with our results, especially letting the first two slip away (against Ottawa and Montreal), and even the third one there (against Pittsburgh)."
Nabokov, who has been in net for 27 of the Islanders' 32 games this season has 326 career wins, ranking him fourth among active goalies behind Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Nikolai Khabibulin. Nabokov's 55 shutouts move him ahead Bernie Parent and Ed Giacomin to 18th all-time.
The Islanders have been ahead or tied in the third period in 26 of 32 games this season. They are 14-9-3 in those games.
New York dominated the first period, outshooting the Panthers 13-4. Florida held a 12-11 shots advantage in a scoreless second period. Nabokov stopped another 10 shots in the third for his 55th career shutout.
"We have to find some production," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "We have to keep encouraging some of the plays that are creating chances for, but we need some finish right now. We need some opportunistic guys to step up and say there's a heck of a lot of opportunity for them to produce right now. Unfortunately, it's not happening yet."
Markstrom made two sharp saves in the second on Tavares and another point-blank on Colin McDonald in the slot.
The Islanders, who are 6-11-2 at home, play 11 of their final 16 games on the road, beginning Tuesday night in Washington.
"We needed a win," Tavares said. "Games are starting to quickly tick down and we need the wins. There's not too many home games left and we haven't been very consistent over the season here. You've got to finish on a good note. Our fans deserved it. We needed it and it's good to finish it the right way and get ready for a big road trip."
The Panthers are on a season-high five-game road trip. They won the first two then lost to New Jersey last night. Florida will conclude its trip in Toronto on Tuesday.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.
|Filip Kuba Tripping against Josh Bailey|
|Tyson Strachan Roughing against Colin McDonald|
|Matt Carkner Interference against Scottie Upshall|
|Andrew MacDonald Holding against Scottie Upshall|