Islanders 3, Panthers 2, SO

The New York Islanders played loose. The Florida Panthers

tightened up.

Frans Nielsen scored the only goal in the shootout and the

Islanders beat the Panthers 3-2 on Sunday night.

Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson scored in regulation, and Evgeni

Nabokov stopped 33 shots.

Nielsen scored in the first round, while all three Panthers

shooters missed against Nabokov.

”I just tried to fake a shot a little bit and go to my

backhand,” Nielsen said. ”I think he read me pretty good, but I

was lucky to get it up and hit the post and the crossbar and went

in. I was a little lucky, but I’ll take it.”

Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss scored for Florida, and Jose

Theodore made 35 saves.

The Islanders missed a chance to win with about a minute left in

overtime. Michael Grabner had an open net but his shot hit the

stick of Florida’s Ed Jovanovski.

The Islanders won for just the third time in nine games.

”You still want to win hockey games and play hard, keep

building,” Nielsen said. ”We can’t just lay down and die. We have

to keep playing.”

Florida is three points ahead of Washington for the Southeast

Division lead. Washington beat Minnesota 3-0 on Sunday.

They picked up a point in each of the past two losses because

the games went to overtime.

”Obviously, you want to win every home game but it was tough

playing against loose teams like Edmonton and the Islanders are,”

Fleischmann said. ”It’s the end of the season and we are a kind of

a tight group right now. Washington is coming after us for the

playoffs. It’s a fight right now.”

The Panthers have lost three straight after a five-game winning

streak and are 5-10 in shootouts this season.

”Unfortunately for us, the shootout has been a little bit of a

stickler for us this year,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said.

”Right now, when things don’t always fall on our side, there’s a

little tightness when it comes to the shootout.”

The Islanders trailed twice in the game before they came back to

win it.

”Our game plan doesn’t change and that’s the way we have to

continue to play,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. ”I thought

we did a good job of tracking and in all areas. They played well

enough to win, too. Our goalie made some big saves in key

times.”

The Islanders tied it 2 at 12:22 of the third when Okposo scored

while attempting to pass the puck. His pass from the top of the

right circle was intended for Mark Streit, but it glanced off the

stick of Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov and into the net.

Florida went ahead 2-1 on Fleischmann’s goal at 9:51 of the

third. Streit attempted to bring the puck out from behind his own

net but it hit the back of an Islander’s player along the boards

above the right circle. Fleischmann grabbed the loose puck and his

shot from the right circle got past Nabokov. Fleischmann leads the

Panthers with 56 points.

The Islanders tied it at 1 on Moulson’s power-play goal late in

the second. John Tavares passed the puck from the bottom of the

left circle back to Moulson in the slot. He fired the puck past

Theodore at 18:57, his team-leading 34th goal of the season.

The Panthers opened the scoring on Weiss’ goal in the first, his

19th of the season. Tomas Fleischmann passed the puck from behind

the Islanders’ net to Weiss in front. His slap shot beat Nabokov at

5:55.

Notes: Islanders forward Moulson has 14 points in his past 14

games. … Islanders C Tavares has 12 points in his past eight

games. … The Panthers wore their alternate two-toned blue jerseys

for the last time Sunday.