New York Islanders right wing Trent Hunter wasn't one of the team's top scoring options last season, thanks in part to his willingness to defer to his teammates. Early in 2008-09, he's shown he's still comfortable looking for his own shot.
After scoring two go-ahead goals including the game-winner in New York's last contest, Hunter looks to continue his strong start and lead the Islanders to their first back-to-back wins of the season Saturday night when they visit the Florida Panthers.
Though he set a new career high and led the Islanders (2-2-0) with 29 assists last season, Hunter was held to 12 goals in 82 games, his lowest total in his four full seasons in the NHL.
Hunter, though, appears determined to be a more integral part of New York's offense in 2008-09. After being held without a point in the season opener, he has scored four goals in his last three games. No other Islander has more than two goals this season.
Hunter's most recent goals were particularly important for the club. After New York blew a 2-0 third-period lead against Tampa Bay on Thursday night, Hunter put the Islanders up 3-2 at the 13:51 mark. They blew that lead a minute later, but Hunter picked them up again with his second goal 51 seconds into overtime.
It was his first two-goal game since Feb. 27, 2007.
"I was happy to see it go in," Hunter said of the game-winner, which he credited to teammate Frans Nielsen. "He made a great play to pick off the pass, and I was just kind of waiting in the slot. He made a good pass, and I was just able to one-touch it in."
Islanders first-year coach Scott Gordon has to be excited about Hunter's early production, but more importantly, he's happy with the attitude his team showed after letting Tampa Bay get back into the game.
"We could have easily had a letdown after they tied it up," he said. "We responded the right way."
The Islanders hope to build on the victory as they visit a Panthers team they went winless against last season. New York was outscored 12-5 in going 0-3-1 in the season series.
However, Florida (1-2-0) has had a hard time stopping opponents this season. It's given up 14 goals in the first three games, including six in each of its losses. Tomas Vokoun allowed four goals on 22 shots in the first two periods before being replaced by Craig Anderson in Thursday night's 6-2 defeat against Minnesota.
"He's not the reason we lost tonight," said Panthers coach Peter DeBoer, who called his team's effort "disappointing." "There was a lot of different reasons, but I think everybody from our goalie out has to be better and they know that."
Vokoun has historically been better against the Islanders. He allowed two total goals in two wins against them last season to improve to 7-2-0 with a 1.87 goals-against average and two shutouts in nine career games versus New York.
Islanders goalie Joey MacDonald, who's 2-2-0 with a 3.50 GAA starting in place of Rick DiPietro (undisclosed injury), has never faced the Panthers.