Skip to Main Content

Thomas, Panthers end Islanders' winning streak

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek had a message for reporters when he talked after his team's 4-2 victory against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

"We just wanted to make sure you guys knew that we could score some goals," Horachek said with a smile. "So we tried to do it early in the game."

The Panthers broke out of their scoring slump with three first-period goals, built a 4-0 lead and held on to beat the streaking Islanders at BB&T Center.

The Panthers, who scored three non-shootout goals during a three-game road trip last week, recorded three goals in a period for the first time since their season opener, when they scored three times in the third period of a 4-2 victory against the Dallas Stars.

"In all previous games on that road trip, we had a lot of good chances, a lot of pipes," said center Nick Bjugstad, who capped the first-period scoring with a goal at 19:24. "Sometimes you don't get the puck luck. Tonight, we had some real good opportunities that fell our way and we capitalized on them."

Scottie Upshall had a goal and an assist to lead the Panthers, and Aleksander Barkov and Drew Shore also scored. Ed Jovanovski had two assists.

Tim Thomas, who never played for the Islanders last season after New York acquired him in a trade with the Boston Bruins, stopped 31 shots in the win.

"The guys did what they had to," Horachek said. "They battled down to the very end, and Timmy played his normal solid self. We rely on that. We got the points, we're moving forward."

Colin McDonald and Thomas Vanek scored for the Islanders, who had their four-game winning streak snapped. The Islanders also lost on the road for the first time in eight games; they fell one short of tying the franchise record of eight consecutive road victories set in 1980-81.

Kevin Poulin, making his fourth consecutive start with Evgeni Nabokov nursing a lower-body injury, made 22 saves, but a lot of them had a high degree of difficulty.

"He kept us in it," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of Poulin. "That guy made some big saves at some key times of the game. There's no question, especially on the power play, we gave them some chances. We need to be sharper, and he made some big saves for us."

The Islanders have two games remaining on their season-long six-game road trip. They'll play Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

In the teams' first game this season, the Panthers snapped a four-game losing streak against the Islanders that dated back to the 2011-12 season. The teams will face each other at Nassau Coliseum on March 2 and April 1.

The Panthers, whose previous five games were decided by one goal, led 4-0 in the final minute of the second period before the Islanders started coming back.

"We've been starting awfully slow," Islanders forward Matt Martin said. "A lot of the games we've won, we've come from behind. If you play with fire long enough, you're going to get burned. They capitalized on their opportunities early on and we dug ourselves too big of a hole to climb out of. Obviously, you're not going to win all of them. We've got a game in two days and need to get rolling again."

Florida wasted little time getting on the scoreboard Tuesday, with Barkov scoring his eighth goal of the season 32 seconds in. It was the fastest goal of the season for the Panthers, topping Brad Boyes' goal 1:55 in during a 6-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Florida's home opener Oct. 11.

After a turnover in the neutral zone, Boyes and Barkov came in on a 2-on-1 and passed the puck from one side of the net to the other three times before Barkov finally one-timed it into a wide-open net.

"Barky and Boyes made a beautiful play," Bjugstad said. "It was kind of awed by it. They were just tic-tac, ding-ding-ding, and it's in the net. That was pretty cool. That's a European play. They can move the puck, I can tell you that."

Shore made it 2-0 at 15:34 with his first goal in nine games this season. After skating with the puck behind the net, Shore spun around in the low-circle area and fired the puck to the net. His hot went in off the skate of defenseman Brian Strait, and the goal was upheld after video review.

Bjugstad completed the first-period scoring after another New York turnover. Upshall stole the puck at the blue line and fed Bjugstad a diagonal pass at the bottom of the left circle. Bjugstad made a quick move to his forehand and flicked a shot high to the glove side right before being hit from behind.

"That goal, there's maybe five guys in the League that can bring that puck to the net like that," Upshall said. "He's been a real big force for us."

Upshall increased the lead to 4-0 at 15:59 of the second with a shorthanded goal. He stole the puck from Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald at the blue line and beat Poulin on a breakaway with a deke to his forehand.

It was the first goal in 16 games for Upshall, who was tripped from behind and fell to the ice right after putting the puck past Poulin.

Although the Panthers scored when they were a man down, they didn't get any help from their power play, which is ranked last in the NHL. Florida was 0-for-5 and failed to score on a 5-on-3 that lasted 1:14 in the first period and again on a four-minute power play in the third period after Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan was assessed a double minor for high sticking.

Florida is 0-for-22 with the man advantage in its past seven games.

It also was a rough outing for 2013 Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau. The Panthers left wing was stopped on a breakaway in the first period and was held without a goal for a 14th consecutive game. He also took two of Florida's three penalties, was minus-2, and didn't see the ice for the final 17:22.

The Islanders scored with 30.2 seconds left in the second when McDonald one-timed Martin's pass from behind the net. De Haan had the second assist, extending his point streak to five games.

Vanek cut the Panthers' lead to 4-2 at 2:38 of the third when he tapped in Frans Nielsen's backhand pass from behind the net.

"We talked about it before tonight's game that we wanted a better start," McDonald said. "Obviously, we didn't do that and got ourselves in a deeper hole than in the last couple games. I thought we played pretty well after the first, but going down four, it's just too tough to come back."

View More