Defense provides offense as Panthers top Islanders
NEW YORK (AP) — After a disappointing start to the season, the Florida Panthers are starting to get on a little bit of a roll.
Jason Demers scored the tiebreaking goal early in the second period, Roberto Luongo stopped 29 shots and the Panthers held on for a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.
Keith Yandle also scored for Florida, which has won two straight and four of its last six. The Panthers also have four straight road wins, and points in 10 of their last 13 games overall (6-3-4).
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“Guys are starting to come around and feeling more comfortable in their roles,” Luongo said. “We need 20 guys in this locker room to contribute.”
The Panthers made their first visit to Brooklyn since losing to the Islanders in the second overtime of the series-clinching Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs last April 24.
“Last year is last year,” Panthers general manager and coach Tom Rowe said. “We’re really trying to get into a playoff position. … I don’t think there was a whole lot given about being knocked out last year the way we were knocked out. It’s a regular-season game, we had to get the two points.”
Luongo agreed, adding: “We got other problems we’re worried about right now. We’re trying to stay focused on winning games.”
Both teams have struggled this season. New York is mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and Florida is just out a playoff spot — even with third-place Ottawa in the Atlantic with the Senators having four games in hand, and two points behind Philadelphia for the East’s second wild-card spot.
Nick Leddy had the Islanders’ goal and Thomas Greiss finished with 22 saves. New York, in the midst of a stretch of seven of eight on the road, lost for the fourth time in five games (1-2-2).
New York coach Jack Capuano didn’t hide his displeasure after the game.
“There will guys who will be out of the lineup next game, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “That’s the accountability as a coach. But when it comes to scoring goals and individual production, let them do their thing. You just try to give them confidence.”
The Panthers improved to 8-6-7 since Rowe fired former coach Gerard Gallant on Nov. 27 and replaced him behind the bench. Florida was 11-10-1 under Gallant.
Luongo was tested several times in the third period as New York had a 12-1 advantage on shots. He stopped Islanders captain John Tavares on a wraparound attempt just past the midpoint of the period, and then Tavares and Anders Lee both jabbed at the puck from in close but couldn’t poke it in. Luongo also stopped three rapid tries by Casey Cizikas with about 6 minutes to go
“Roberto was excellent,” Rowe said. “Early in the game, he didn’t get a whole lot of work but then as the game went on the Islanders got going, especially in the third period they had a pretty good stretch there.”
Florida outshot New York 16-6 in a brisk-paced second period and took a 2-1 lead 1:09 into the period as Demers took a pass from Jonathan Marchessault and snapped it past Greiss from the right circle for his eighth.
“That was probably the worst second period we played all year,” Capuano said. “We had no rhythm, no execution. Certain guys should have stayed in the (locker) room. It was bad.”
Florida got on the scoreboard first as Yandle pounced on a rebound and fired a slap shot from the left faceoff circle past Greiss for his third of the season at 5:47 of the first.
Leddy tied it for the Islanders with 9:13 remaining in the opening period with a wrist shot from the left slot past Luongo on the glove side for his sixth.
Florida won the teams’ first meeting this season, 3-2 in overtime at home on Nov. 12. … The Panthers improved to 13-5-4 when scoring first and 13-1-3 when leading after two periods. … The 37-year-old Luongo, who was drafted by the Islanders fourth overall in 1997 and spent part of the 1999-2000 season in New York, improved to 12-11-3 against his former team. … The Islanders honored long-time play-by-play announcer Jiggs McDonald with a video tribute during a pregame ceremony. He was presented with a bronze microphone and team jersey. He received an ovation from the crowd and also dropped the ceremonial first puck. McDonald has called NHL games since 1967. … The Islanders fell to 4-12-3 when giving up the first goal and 0-10-1 when trailing after two periods.
Panthers: Host the Islanders on Friday night to complete the home-and-home set and open a back-to-back with Columbus coming in Saturday night.
Islanders: At Florida on Friday night in the opener of a three-game, four-day road trip.