The Florida Panthers have finally figured out how to win shootouts.
After going 3-8 in 2008-09 -- costing themselves a playoff berth in the process -- the Panthers improved to 4-1 in shootouts this season by beating the New York Islanders 5-4 on Saturday night. Nathan Horton's goal in the fourth round of the shootout came after both teams blow two-goal leads.
"It was a weird game," said Horton, who snapped a wrist shot past Dwayne Roloson for the game-winner. "It's not the way we wanted to play; not the start we wanted. We can't let that happen."
The Panthers spotted the Islanders a two-goal lead after one period, then scored four in a row and seemingly had the game in hand in the third period. But John Tavares scored a power-play goal and set up Kyle Okposo for another to tie the game.
Following a scoreless OT, Frans Nielsen scored in the first round of the shootout for the Islanders, who went beyond regulation for the 10th time in 20 games. But Steven Reinprecht tied it by beating Dwayne Roloson with a backhander in the second round and Horton scored to put Florida ahead. Tomas Vokoun then gave the Panthers their second shootout win in three nights by stopping Sean Bergenheim.
''The result was the most important thing,'' Vokoun said. ''I think we played good for part of this game, but we have to do it for 60 minutes.''
The Islanders fell to 1-4 in shootouts and 3-7 in games that go past 60 minutes.
The Isles couldn't hold an early 2-0 lead, allowing Florida to score four unanswered goals. Cory Stillman and Weiss scored midway through the second period to tie the game, and Rostislav Olesz jammed in a rebound with 26.1 seconds left to put Florida ahead for the first time. Michael Frolik added a power-play goal early in the third period for a seemingly safe 4-2 lead.
''Sometimes when you get a lead like that, you get a little lackadaisical,'' Tavares said of the Isles' letdown. ''You have to bear down and be sharper.''
But the Panthers couldn't put the Islanders away, leaving coach Peter DeBoer a bit torn after the game.
"We picked up four points against a hot team in the Islanders and in Boston in a tough rink," he said. But "you fix one problem and another problem crops up," he added. "We're (winning) shootouts now unlike last year. Last year we did a good job holding leads, and now we can't hold leads.
"It's like sticking your finger in a dike," he added. "You fill one and another pops up. But that's an NHL season and that's what you deal with and you fix the problem areas as quick as you can."
Florida beat the Islanders for the seventh time in a row at the BankAtlantic Center and sent the Isles north with a 1-0-2 record through the first three games of a seven-game trip that continues Monday at Boston.
The Islanders, who had scored three goals in the first period in each of their previous three games -- something they hadn't done since March 1980 -- got off to another fast start. They won the opening faceoff, dumped the puck into the Florida zone and jumped ahead when Nate Thompson centered from behind the net to Tim Jackman in the slot for a 10-footer past Vokoun just 16 seconds into the game.
"(Vokoun's) been on a little bit of a hot streak lately so it was nice to get a couple," said Jackman, who scored his second of the season on his 28th birthday.
New York continued to pressure Vokoun while Florida struggled to find its skating legs and was rewarded at 4:29 when Josh Bailey's pass from the right corner found Trent Hunter in the high slot. Hunter blistered a shot that beat Vokoun cleanly for a 2-0 lead.
Only some fine goaltending by Vokoun kept the Islanders off the board the rest of the period. New York outshot Florida 15-10 and had by far the better of play.
But the Islanders' inability to hold leads came back to bite them again -- they blew a multi-goal lead for the third consecutive game and the sixth time in 20.
The first half of the second period passed in relative tranquility before Stillman capitalized on some poor defensive work by the Islanders to score Florida's first goal. After the puck pinballed around in the New York zone, Stillman picked it up and threw a wrist shot from well beyond the left circle that sailed past Roloson at 10:26.
That goal appeared to energize both the crowd and the Panthers, who needed just 32 seconds to tie it. Weiss took a pass from Nathan Horton in stride down the left side, cut in on defenseman Freddy Meyer as he reached the left circle and got below the faceoff dot before beating Roloson with a quick wrister over the glove.
The rest of the period belonged entirely to the Panthers, who kept firing away at Roloson and went ahead when Olesz dug the rebound of Kamil Kreps' wrister out of Roloson's pads and tucked it past the beleaguered goaltender. Florida outshot the Islanders 15-7 in the period.
The Panthers added to their lead 3:03 into the third period after Isles' defenseman Bruno Gervais was sent off for holding. Weiss controlled the puck near the right dot, drew the defense toward him and found Frolik wide-open in the lower left circle for a wrister into a half-empty net.
But Tavares rallied the Islanders by roofing a power-play rebound at 8:27 and winning a draw to Okposo for a shot through traffic that beat Vokoun and tied the game at 13:14.
New York earned at least a point in a third straight road game for the first time since Jan. 13-22, 2008.
''We showed resilience in getting that point,'' Okposo said.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report