The New York Islanders got back on track on Saturday night, beating the Florida Panthers 3-2 in a shootout at NYCB Live.
Brock Nelson scored the lone goal in the shootout, as the Islanders snapped a two-game losing streak and cleansed the sour taste of a 5-2 loss in Carolina the night before. Anders Lee and Josh Bailey also scored for the Islanders, while Semyon Varlamov made 35 saves for his first win as an Islander.
"The last couple of games we didn't feel like ourselves in the way we played for an entire 60 minutes," Bailey said. "At times we've been there, but not consistent enough, so tonight we can all agree was more of a complete game that we're accustomed to."
TOP LINE STAYS INTACT AND REWARDS TROTZ'S TRUST:
After a disappointing showing on Friday night, Barry Trotz chopped up his lines for Saturday's contest. Only the Anders Lee, Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle trio stayed intact to start the game and rewarded the coach's decision.
"We didn't have anything to really show for it last night, but we were putting together and creating really good plays," Lee said. "I think Barry was able to put that confidence and trust in us tonight and we were able to get one."
All three players found the scoresheet on Saturday. Lee netted his second goal of the season, posting up in the slot and one-timing a tremendous Mat Barzal feed over Sam Montembeault's shoulder to tie the score 1-1.
"We see those kinds of examples all of the time," Lee said of Barzal. "We both saw the play, the stick was there and he waited for it to get out of the way. He put it in a good spot for me and ross had a great screen in front. Just another example of Barzy's patience and poise and seeing the game."
Barzal did Barzal things all night, including patiently waiting for a play to develop behind the Panthers' net before threading a pass to Lee's tape. Barzal also showed a little razzle dazzle in deking around Dadonov, pulling the puck through his legs twice on the same rush.
Jordan Eberle wasn't on the ice for Lee's goal, but the forward recorded an assist on Josh Bailey's go-ahead goal late in the second period. Eberle now has three assists in his last two games, though he left the game late and Trotz did not have an update.
Video: FLA@NYI: Varlamov stones Huberdeau to seal SO win
VARLAMOV GETS FIRST WIN AS ISLANDER:
Semyon Varlamov looked visibly relieved after Saturday's win. Part of that was the aftermath of physically stopping 35 shots - and three shootout attempts - and part of it was getting his first win as an Islander.
"A win tastes great," Varlamov said. "I am very excited, very happy, for the team especially. After two losses, we needed this win and I thought everyone played well and played hard. Tonight we played like we were supposed to play."
Varlamov sharp when the Islanders needed him, stopping 13-of-14 shots in the third period. Evgenii Dadonov tied the game up 2-2 with 6:02 to play in the third, but it didn't undercut Varlamov's importance, especially as Florida outshot the Isles 14-5.
He came through with a two-pad stack on a late Panthers push and stopped Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau in the shootout. It was a solid bounce-back effort from Varlamov, who was pulled on Tuesday, and easily his best game since joining the team.
"He made some big saves and in the shootout, he was outstanding," Trotz said. "It's going to take a little weight off him.
Video: FLA@NYI: Bailey wires a wrister upstairs on the rush
JOHNSTON MAKES PRESENCE FELT IN SEASON DEBUT:
Ross Johnston made his season debut on Saturday, drawing into the lineup for Matt Martin in one of Trotz's lineup changes. Johnston played alongside Leo Komarov and Tom Kuhnhackl.
"For me, getting back in the lineup is a great opportunity," Johnston said. "I just wanted to get my legs back into it. I thought after the first period I settled in and played well the rest of the game."
The PEI product made his presence felt. The 6'5, 235 lbs. forward drew the attention of three Panthers at the front of the net on Lee's goal, and decisively won a third period fight with Josh Brown.
"Johnner played the way you want him to play," Trotz said. "Every time he came down the ice, he got a puck back… We've got enough players that we'll take guys in and out of the lineup. It was his turn, he deserved the chance and made the most of it."
Video: FLA@NYI: Nelson uses quick shot for shootout goal
LEDDY RETURNS TO LINEUP:
Nick Leddy returned to action on Saturday night after missing Friday's contest with an undisclosed, nagging ailment. Noah Dobson came out of the lineup for Leddy's return. Leddy played 18:27 with three blocked shots and a hit.
CIZIKAS MISSES SECOND STRAIGHT GAME:
Casey Cizikas missed his second straight game on Saturday. Cizikas had aggravated an injury he suffered in the Islanders final preseason game on Sept. 28. Trotz said he doesn't anticipate Cizikas being out long term, but said in retrospect, the Isles center may have benefited from a slower return to the lineup.
The Islanders take on the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Monday afternoon at NYCB Live.
Video: NYI 3 vs. FLA 2 (SO): Barry Trotz
Video: NYI 3 vs FLA 2 OT: Semyon Varlamov
Video: NYI 3 vs FLA 2 OT: Anders
Video: NYI 3 vs FLA 2 OT: Josh Bailey