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Luongo, Barkov help Panthers snap Islanders' streak

by Brian Compton

NEW YORK -- Roberto Luongo made 33 saves and Aleksander Barkov had a goal and two assists to help the Florida Panthers to a 5-1 win against the New York Islanders at Barclays Center on Tuesday.

Reilly Smith, Aaron Ekblad, Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau scored for the Panthers (15-12-4), who were outshot 19-2 in the first period. They continue their four-game road trip at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

Florida was forced to play without key forwards Jaromir Jagr (flu) and Nick Bjugstad (upper body), but took control of the game after surviving the opening 20 minutes.

"We were down a few boys tonight," Luongo said. "We weathered the storm in the first. We came out, had a great second period, scored some goals. That really gave us some confidence."

Brock Nelson scored and Jaroslav Halak allowed four goals on 16 shots for the Islanders (18-9-5), who lost in regulation for the first time since Nov. 22. They were 8-0-2 in their previous 10 games.

The Islanders will play at the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

"I think this is as good of a roll as we've been on in a long time," defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "No reason to freak out or worry. We're very proud of our group in here and how we're going to work and how we've certainly worked this last month and this stretch to try and put ourselves in a situation like this.

"We've played some really good hockey as of late. Tonight certainly wasn't maybe how we drew it up, but we move forward. We've got a couple of games before the [holiday] break. We get on the road and play the Islander hockey we know we're capable of. It is one game, so we're ready to move forward."

Luongo was tested early and often by the Islanders, who had five shots less than 4½ minutes into the game. He kept New York off the board when he snared Kyle Okposo's wrist shot from between the circles with a dazzling glove save at 4:15.

Smith opened the scoring 1:51 into the second period with his ninth goal of the season. With the teams at even strength, Smith one-timed a pass from Dylan Olsen at the right circle to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. It was Smith's third goal in four games.

"He's a big part of this team and he's done a lot for us, especially this early in the year," Smith said of Jagr, who leads Florida in scoring with 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) in 28 games. "But there's a lot of moving parts. It seemed like there was a lot of strong efforts tonight that helped us get that win."

Casey Cizikas nearly tied it for the Islanders about four minutes later, but his redirection from the slot off a pass from Matt Martin was denied by Luongo.

Barkov, who hadn't scored in nine games, gave Florida a 2-0 lead at 7:25. Islanders center Frans Nielsen attempted to chip the puck to himself behind the net, but it deflected off defenseman Travis Hamonic and came to Barkov in front, where he quickly backhanded a shot past Halak for his seventh goal of the season.

"We're missing some good forwards," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "Bjugstad's not there, [Derek] MacKenzie's not there, so we're missing some top players. But hey, that's part of the game, that's part of the NHL. Everybody has injuries and you've got to get through it. We called some guys up and we played a good, solid team game tonight."

New York finally solved Luongo when Nelson scored with 7:23 left in the second period. With Nelson and Mikhail Grabovski driving to the net, Nelson redirected Marek Zidlicky's feed from inside the right point past Luongo to make it 2-1. It was Nelson's 10th goal of the season.

But Florida restored its two-goal lead 20 seconds later when Ekblad scored his seventh goal. Ekblad, who extended his point streak to three games, took a pass from Brandon Pirri and let go a soft wrist shot from the left circle that managed to get between Halak's skates.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano said he never considered pulling his starting goaltender.

"We've got a lot of hockey coming up," Capuano said. "He wants to stay in there and battle. He battled. He'd liked to have one or two of those back, but that's the way it goes. He's been there for us all year."

Trocheck made it 4-1 at 1:23 of the third period when he one-timed a pass from Jussi Jokinen at the right circle past Halak for his ninth goal of the season. Huberdeau sealed the victory with a shorthanded empty-net goal at 16:17.

Luongo, who was a first-round pick by New York at the 1997 NHL Draft, admitted it was strange to face the Islanders on the road in a building other than Nassau Coliseum, where they played their home games from 1972 through last season.

"It is a little bit different," Luongo said. "I think the fact that they had the black jerseys kind of made it a little less awkward. But it was a fun game to be a part of.

"There's a lot of history in the Coliseum. I really enjoyed playing in that building too. Sad to see it go, but what are you going to do? You've got to move on."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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