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Isles end year with 4-2 win over Florida

by John Kreiser
The New York Islanders ended a miserable year on a happy note.

The Islanders, whose 27-44-7-4 mark was the NHL's worst in calendar year 2008, enjoyed a rare dominant performance in a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. Mike Comrie scored twice and Joey MacDonald made 27 saves as the Isles won for only the second time in 14 games in December.

Both of Comrie's goals came in the second period, when the Isles turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 advantage. Kyle Okposo's pass deflected off his skate and into the net at 7:50, and his shot from the left of Tomas Vokoun near the goal line hit the goaltender's leg and went in at 15:05 for a power-play goal to put the Isles ahead to stay.

Comrie has four goals in the Isles' past three games after getting just two until that point. He underwent offseason hip surgery, came back early and then went into rehab for the injury. He's had a lot more jump since play resumed after the Christmas break, and says having his health back has made all the difference.

"I can honestly say it was the first time I felt healthy," Comrie said. "Playing on one leg isn't the easiest thing as a professional athlete. I feel so excited to make a difference."

With snow falling outside the Nassau Coliseum, the Panthers got on the board first when Nick Boynton's point shot hit Brett McLean, stationed in the slot, and deflected past MacDonald at 18:24.

But Comrie's two goals put the Isles ahead, and Sean Bergenheim's spectacular goal with 23.9 seconds left made it 3-1. Bergenheim blew past Karlis Skrastins at the blue line, cut in alone and lifted a quick wrist shot that hit the left post and deflected off Vokoun's back before trickling over the goal line.

MacDonald made the save of the game early in the third period when he robbed Gregory Campbell, who was all alone on a shorthanded break. Mark Streit's power-play goal at 13:44 made it a three-goal game before Nathan Horton scored a meaningless goal with 28 seconds to play.

The Isles were in such command down the stretch that the biggest question was whether center Doug Weight would get his 1,000th NHL point. He got No. 999 with the primary assist on Comrie's second goal and had several good chances at a goal or an assist that would have gotten him the milestone before New York left town for a four-game road trip.

"We had the lead and we were playing pretty good ... so yeah, I was thinking about it a little bit. It's hard not to," said Weight, a 37-year-old veteran of 17 NHL seasons. "You're thinking about hunting it down and getting it over with and doing it at home. That would be nice."

The Islanders — whose 28 points are the fewest in the NHL — finished December with a 2-10-2 mark that included a 10-game losing streak. Bug they've earned points in three of four following the Christmas break.

"You lose 10 in a row, there can be a million excuses but there is a reason you're losing," Weight said. "We weren't playing 60 minutes, and I think now we have a little newfound energy."

Florida coach Peter DeBoer, whose team lost to the Islanders for the first time since Dec. 9, 2006, wasn't happy with the play of Vokoun, who was lifted after New York's three-goal second period. Craig Anderson played the third period — the third time in four starts that Vokoun has been lifted.

"Obviously, some of those goals should have been stopped," Vokoun said. "People make mistakes all the time. This has never happened to me in my career. But I'm not blaming my mistakes on anybody else. When you get pulled three of the last four games, it's going to shake your confidence."

DeBoer didn't cut Vokoun any slack when a first-period goal by the Islanders was waved off due to goalie interference.

"Really it was four goals on 20 shots," DeBoer said. "Even the first one that didn't count looked like it went in to me. That was reason enough."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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