Islanders Hold Off Panthers, End Road Trip 2-1



Once again, the Islanders made it dramatic before pulling off the victory Saturday in Sunrise.

The Isles came to the greater Miami area to play the Florida Panthers after shutting out Tampa Bay 2-0 behind strong defensive play. Could they continue that trend against Florida?

For a little over 45 minutes they did, but then the flood gates opened. The Panthers scored three goals in one minute and 43 seconds to go from three down to a tied game. Isles head coach Jack Capuano called a timeout after the second goal, but even that could not stem the tide.

Fortunately for New York, the third goal was a wakeup call. Or it was a sign of maturity for the hockey club. They almost immediately started taking back the momentum and stole it when Casey Cizikas' wrister found the back of the net at 12:55 of the third.

As stated previously, the game started promising. The Isles first couple of shifts were strong, but then the game kind of settled into a back and forth effort for both teams. Florida got the only power play of the period, and indeed, the game in the first period when Marty Reasoner was sent off for tripping a couple of minutes into the contest.

Florida got three shots on the ensuing power play, but to no avail. After the power play, neither team generated great offense until late in the period. Then the Islander offense started to flex its muscles.

It started with approximately five minutes left in the period when Frans Nielsen scooped up a loose puck behind the Florida net and fired a blind backhand pass into the slot that Okposo fired past Panther goalie Scott Clemmensen.

Two and a half minutes later, Radek Martinek added his second goal of the season. Martinek's defense partner, Mark Streit, skated into the offensive zone with the puck, taking it down to the right hand faceoff circle before passing back to Martinek. Martinek then snapped a shot that got behind a heavily screened Clemmensen.

If you weren't back in your seat to start the second period, you probably didn't see the Isles third tally.

A little more than 30 seconds into the second, the Tavares line lit the lamp. The goal came off of a nice little give and go between John Tavares and Brad Boyes, with the latter popping off a wrist shot that hits the right skate of Panther forward Tomas Kopecky and into the Florida net. It was Boyes' 8th off the season. (Photo Credit: flikr/bridgetds)

The Panthers started to show signs of life again the second, ringing a pair of shots off the posts, one by Jack Skille and another by Mike Santorelli, who fired a wrist shot off of Evgeni Nabokov's glove and the near post. Skille also forced Nabokov, who stopped 27 of 30 Florida shots, to make a sweet glove save from in close.

Early in the third, it seemed that the Panthers were building momentum and that eventually paid dividends with an offensive eruption. The flood gates opened when the Panthers got the puck into the crease and after several hacks, the puck found the stick of TJ Brennan who wristed one past Nabokov. 34 seconds later, Tomas Fleischmann takes a pass from Marcel Goc and skates behind the Isles net. Then he feeds a shot back across the crease to a wide open Goc who buries the shot. Florida added another 1:09 later when Skille skated down the left side and shot the puck off of Nabokov and back into the slot where an undefended Santorelli tapped the puck into the wide open net. (Photo credit: flikr/clydeorama)

In seasons past, that blown lead would have signaled a shame spiral ending in an Islander loss, but not this season. Not with these guys.

New York stole the momentum back and  got the game winner with about seven minutes left in the third. Keith Aucoin, Casey Cizikas and Colin McDonald, who earlier in the day inked a two year extension with the Islanders, cycled the puck down low, with McDonald eventually finding Cizikas by the hash marks. Cizikas took the puck and beat Clemmensen short side.

Florida still had fight in them, but the Isles held them off and increased their road prowess and in the process, leapfrogged the Rangers into ninth spot in the east.

The Isles return to New York to host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

-Donovan Brooks

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