ISLANDERS 3 (2 EN), PANTHERS 0 — At Last, a Home Win

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Kevin Schultz

After a week of blowing third period leads, the Islanders managed to hang on to one today at the Coliseum. Tuesday night against Ottawa and Friday night against Pittsburgh, the Islanders folded in the third. Today, there was no such letdown. They took a 1-0 lead into the final frame and were able to hang on, even tacking on two empty net goals for extra insurance.

Six minutes into the first period, the Islanders were on the powerplay and Andrew MacDonald blasted a slapshot past Florida goalie Jacob Markstrom. They controlled the play throughout the first frame outshooting Florida 14-3.

The start of the second period was probably the biggest threat the Panthers had all day. The Islanders didn’t come out strong and nearly allowed the tying goal on a couple of chances. The Panthers didn’t have many chances, but the first half of the second contained most of their good opportunities. In the end, they would register 12 of their 26 shots in the second, none of which beat Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov was sharp for the Islanders and deserves a lot of credit in the win, which was also his 55th career shutout.

The third period was a bit of a slog, as neither team really managed many chances or good opportunities. The Panthers did have one power play opportunity — each team had two in the game — as Andrew MacDonald was called for hooking but nothing would come of it. Late in the frame, the Panthers pulled Markstrom for the extra attacker and after about thirty seconds of scrambling in the Islanders zone, the puck came free to Matt Moulson. Moulson put it ahead to Brad Boyes, who had a 2-on-1 with John Tavares, who finished from just outside the blueline for his 19th of the year. With the net still empty, Casey Cizikas added a third goal with 13 seconds to go.

The win caps off a four-game homestand that saw the Islanders earn two of a possible eight points. Miraculously, those two points were enough to move the Islanders within one point of the eighth spot at the final buzzer. Despite a poor week, the Eastern Conference playoff race has been enough of a mess that the Isles didn’t really lose much ground. The Rangers lost in overtime tonight, which means the Islanders are two points out of eighth. The Rangers have one game in hand and the Hurricanes, in ninth, have two.

Next up for the Islanders is a four-game road trip that kicks off in Washington on Tuesday night. The Capitals sit 11th in the east, tied with the Islanders.