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Hayes scores twice to lead Panthers past Islanders

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Florida Panthers won't be leaving the New York metropolitan area empty-handed.

Jimmy Hayes broke a tie when he scored his second goal of the game 2:10 into the third period and the Panthers defeated the New York Islanders 4-2 at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday.

Hayes slammed home the rebound of Nick Bjugstad's left-point slap shot eight seconds after New York's Cal Clutterbuck was called for high sticking for his 15th goal of the season to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead. Brandon Pirri hit the empty net with 22.1 seconds remaining.

Erik Gudbranson also scored and backup goaltender Al Montoya made 32 saves for Florida (22-17-10), which had lost to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and New York Rangers on Monday and came to Long Island in a 1-6-1 slump.

It was the kind of effort Florida coach Gerard Gallant said the Panthers had to have to break out of their slide, especially after allowing three unanswered goals in their 6-3 loss to the Rangers 24 hours earlier.

"Our guys played for 60 minutes," Gallant said. "That was the difference. We definitely competed hard tonight. It was a team effort and a team win. Everybody came to play."

Gallant wasn't surprised to see his team have more jump than the Islanders, who had been off since Saturday.

"I'm not a big guy who says three games in four nights, you're going to be a tired team," he said. "We lost two games in a row so we had to salvage something from this trip. This was a big win against a very good team."

Montoya, a former Islander, shut down everyone on his old team except rookie Anders Lee, who scored twice.

"This is where I got my start in the NHL," said Montoya, who hadn't started a game since Jan. 9. "I grew up with that team for a couple of years. They're a great team. It feels even better to win."

The Islanders (32-17-1) have matched their season-long losing streak by dropping three in a row after defeating the Rangers in their first game following the All-Star break. Jaroslav Halak finished with 26 saves for New York, but lost to Florida for the second time in 11 career decisions.

The Islanders had won 17 of their first 21 games at the Coliseum, but have dropped back-to-back home games to the Boston Bruins and the Panthers. They play their next three games on the road.

"I think it's just getting back to basics, getting pucks in deep and getting to work," defenseman Johnny Boychuk said when asked about the Islanders can get out of their slump. "We had a couple of turnovers, and they did a good job of getting in front [of the net] and burying their chances.

"We work hard, and we have to get back to our kind of game instead of trying to do things a little too fancy."

The Islanders needed all of 1:44 to get the jump on the Panthers. John Tavares carried over the blue line and fed Josh Bailey coming down left wing on a 3-on-2 rush. Bailey pulled up and found Lee all alone near the right post for an easy put-away into a half-empty net and a 1-0 lead.

But the goal appeared to invigorate the Panthers, who got even at 4:48 when Hayes went to the front of the net and deflected Bjugstad's hard pass from the left corner past Halak.

Halak kept the game even with a handful of excellent saves, most notably a pad stop on Dave Bolland's backhand shot after he waltzed through the defense. Halak also got a break when Florida forward Scottie Upshall rang the left post on a 2-on-1 break at the 10-minute mark.

Neither team managed much offense during the first half of the second period until Gudbranson put Florida ahead at 10:15. The defenseman took a pass from Tomas Fleischmann in the neutral zone, fought off Islanders forward Casey Cizikas as he moved into the right circle and beat Halak to the short side with a backhand shot for his third of the season and a 2-1 lead.

"I had the opportunity; I had the lane and [Fleischmann] made a really good play on the wall," Gudbranson said. "I beat the guys up ice and got a lucky bounce going short-side."

Halak kept the deficit at one goal when he robbed Derek MacKenzie on a shorthanded breakaway at 12:21. The Islanders made Halak's effort pay off 24 seconds later when Lee scored his second of the game and 15th of the season by deflecting Travis Hamonic's point shot past Montoya for a power-play goal to tie the game 2-2.

But the Panthers dominated the third period and left for South Florida with a much-needed victory.

"They responded and we didn't match that," Tavares said. "I think at periods we did, but they got the lead and did a good job of not giving much."

Boychuk said Florida played well but felt the Islanders didn't play as well as they could have.

"I think it was just us," he said. "They did play good; don't get me wrong. But we did a couple of things that weren't us, and we just have to get back to what we do best."

He also conceded that there are going to be valleys in every season.

"Definitely," Boychuk said. "But it's the way you come out of the valleys, that's what you have to look at. This road stretch (games against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres in a four-day stretch that begins Thursday) is going to be a good test for us. We have to be ready every game."

It was the Panthers' final regular-season trip to the Coliseum; the Islanders will play at Barclays Center in Brooklyn beginning next season. Montoya, for one, said he'll miss the place he used to call home.

"This is a fantastic building" he said. "Whatever you want to say about it, it's a great place to play hockey, and now seeing these stands filled every night, it's a special place to play."

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