As good as the Islanders’ goaltending has been lately, the Panthers looked dead on the ice once they fell behind two goals on Friday night.
But Florida scored twice in the final 10 minutes of the third period to force overtime and gain a point in the standings before losing 4-3 in a shootout at BB&T Center.
“It’s never easy to climb back down two,’’ said Brian Campbell, whose goal just before the midway point of the third gave Florida new life.
“It’s good to get a point, but we had a chance to get two. ... Giving up the early goal in the third was tough, but we showed some desperation and it was good to see us fight back.’’
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The red-hot Islanders have won five in a row heading into Saturday’s game across the state at Tampa Bay. Florida has lost four of the past five as it embarks on a four-game road trip with three stops in California before wrapping up in Nashville.
Friday, the Panthers got to Islanders’ goalie Jaroslav Halak early.
Until Jimmy Hayes scored to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead in the opening period, the Islanders were about six minutes away from setting the franchise record for consecutive shutout minutes.
Hayes’ third goal in as many games ended New York’s shutout run at 193 minutes 48 seconds — just shy of the franchise record of 199:13 set in 1998.
Hayes did what he did best on his goal as he crashed the net and hammered a pass from Vinny Trocheck past Halak 12:37 into the game.
“Trocheck and [Jussi] Jokinen are really making a lot of plays out there,’’ Hayes said. “I’m going to the net and they’re getting me the puck. They’re easy to play with.’’
The Islanders scored the next three goals, however, and it looked like they would wrap things up in regulation.
Midway though the period, the Panthers picked up a power-play chance and Campbell cashed in with a 30-foot shot that eluded Halak. Florida had a few more chances, but it was Aaron Ekblad’s 50-foot shot that tied the score to force overtime.
Ekblad, who now has two goals in his 14-game NHL career, wristed a shot that Halak stopped with his glove but couldn’t control. The puck trickled behind him and into the cage.
“The kid has confidence, is playing well and has some real offensive instincts,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “Obviously he put a puck up in an area he knew there would be traffic. He made a great shot.’’
In overtime, it looked like the Panthers were going to end things after Ryan Strome went to the penalty box with 1:03 left.
Florida couldn’t take advantage of its 4-on-3 chance, although it held the puck in the Islanders zone until the final seconds.
In the shootout, the Islanders scored twice with Florida only getting one from Jonathan Huberdeau.
The Panthers are now just 1-5 in overtime this season and 0-2 in the shootout.
“I thought we showed a lot of character after being down two goals late,’’ said goalie Roberto Luongo. “It was a huge comeback for us, but I have to find a way to make some saves in the shootout.’’
Brandon Pirri took another step forward on his return from a concussion Friday as he participated in the morning skate.
Pirri has not played since being hit in the head by the elbow of Arizona’s Keith Yandle on Oct.30.
Although Sean Bergeneheim didn’t play Friday, he’s ready to return to the lineup after missing six games.
Pirri, Dmitry Kulikov (knee) and Dave Bolland (groin) are also on the mend. All five of Florida’s inactive players were scheduled to fly with the team to Southern California following Friday night’s game.
Florida currently had one opening on its roster but would have to start making some moves if more than one injured player comes back.
Trocheck continues to make a case to stick around as he set up Florida’s first and third goals on Friday night and has four assists in six games.
▪ Luongo ended with 31 saves Friday and passed former Florida goalie John Vanbiesbrouck for fifth on the all-time saves list.
Luongo currently has 22,214 saves, just 220 back of Ed Belfour for fourth place.
Belfour ended his NHL career with the Panthers after the 2006-07 season. Coincidentally, he was signed by the Panthers a few weeks after Luongo was traded to Vancouver in 2006.