UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Peter Horacheck repeated the phrase “we’ve been here before” at least three times.
The Panthers’ coach was right, of course. Florida has been “here” on so many occasions, it has gotten to be an endless source of frustration. “Here” is an ugly place — filled with early disadvantages and power-play goals for the opposing team.
The Panthers found themselves “here” again Sunday. But the difference between this game and the dozens before it was significant. After getting down early, the Panthers usually do fight back. This time, they actually came all the way back to win 5-3 against the New York Islanders in a matinee at Nassau Coliseum.
“It seems like that’s the way we roll,” Horacheck said. “We’re striving to play whole games.”
After going down 2-0 and 3-1, struggling Florida scored four times in the third period to snap a four-game losing streak and earn its first road win since Jan. 26 against Detroit.
“We had the killer instinct we’ve been looking for in that situation,” Panthers goalie Tim Thomas said.
Scottie Upshall tipped in the rebound of a Shawn Matthias wrist shot past Evgeni Nabokov with 10:31 left in the third to give the Panthers their first lead, at 4-3, since Feb. 6 against the Red Wings. An Upshall wrister from Dylan Olsen with 4:34 left in the third capped the scoring.
Things looked pretty bleak for the Panthers early. Islanders left wing Thomas Vanek scored two goals in the first period, the latter on a power play. At that point, the Panthers’ penalty kill had allowed six goals on seven attempts since the Olympic break.
But killing a 5-on-3 advantage in the first seemed to be a breakthrough, and then the Panthers got within 2-1 on a huge Matthias goal with 1:45 left in the second period.
Except, less than a minute later, with 46 seconds left, Florida gave up a goal off a turnover to Islanders center Ryan Strome.
“We’ve been there before,” Horacheck said, repeating himself. “We talked about it. It was disappointing that after we scored, they scored.”
That could have been a momentum killer. And maybe it should have been for a floundering team.
But the Panthers found themselves again in the third period. Marcel Goc got them within 3-2 with 16:44 left, and then Matthias netted another one to tie the game at 3 with 15:42 to go. It was his third goal in two games after scoring 11 goals last March.
“I didn’t have time to think,” Matthis said of his second goal. “That’s the key to my success — not thinking.”
Now, if he could only figure out a way to do that before the other team scores twice.
“Obviously, we put ourselves in some bad positions throughout the game,” Erik Gudbranson said. “But showing that resiliency to come back and fight all the way to the end is a huge plus for our team.”
The Panthers made a minor move Sunday afternoon, acquiring minor-league winger Mark Mancari from the St. Louis Blues for Eric Selleck.
The Panthers also sent Doug Janik to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves for future considerations.
Mancari, 28, had nine goals and 22 assists for the Wolves this season. Mancari has played in 42 NHL games for Buffalo and Vancouver. His last NHL action came over six games with the Canucks in the 2011-12 season.
Miami Herald sportswriter George Richards contributed to this report.