The Panthers were desperate to snap a three-game losing streak Friday. Few could have figured they would do so in such dramatic fashion.
The Panthers didn’t miss against the Islanders in the shootout round, connecting on all five of their shots to finally pull out a 3-2 victory at BB&T Center.
The Islanders hit on their first four shootout attempts which, on almost any other night, would have been enough. Yet Roberto Luongo stopped Brock Nelson on No. 5 to send those rubber rats onto the ice.
“Aw man, if they scored one more goal and I think I was coming out,” Luongo joked about giving up four in a row. “I was going to let [Al] Montoya take over, throw up my hands. But this was a big game for us before we hit the road. We played solid, didn’t give them much. They’re a good team, and we stuck with it.”
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The Panthers didn’t want to have to beat the Islanders in a shootout, but after giving up two quick goals in the third New York forced the issue.
Panthers coach Gerard Gallant changed up the forward lines and defensive pairings after Monday’s loss to the Kings, and it paid immediate dividends early. Midway through the first, Brandon Pirri snared a pass from Jaromir Jagr, worked in on Jaroslav Halak and wristed a shot that clipped an Islander on its way into the net.
“We won, so we’ll take it,” Pirri said. “So many times Luongo has stopped the puck, and we ground out a 1-0 win. It was nice to help him out.”
In the second, Vincent Trocheck made a terrific pass to Jussi Jokinen as he leapt toward the puck as it bounded toward the backboards, and somehow directed around the net and onto Jokinen’s stick.
Jokinen was in perfect position in front to score the goal. But on this night two wouldn’t be enough, as the Islanders scored twice within a span of three minutes to tie it.
“The bottom line is we needed two points no matter how we did it,” Gallant said. “We played a great game for two periods, then they got two goals. I thought we played a good game, but the old saying is how tough the two-goal lead is in hockey. We played better after we gave it up.”
Florida got hit with a late penalty in regulation as Erik Gudbranson left the bench way before Brian Campbell made it back. The too-many-skater penalty bled into overtime, with the Islanders holding a 4-on-3 edge for 35 seconds.
The Panthers almost won it moments after the penalty ended, as Connor Brickley bounded from the box just as a clearing pass zipped up the ice. Halak made his first of four overtime saves, however, and play went on.
In the shootout, Florida got goals from Pirri, Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau, with the Islanders matching each one. In the fifth round, Sasha Barkov made a one-handed backhanded move that froze Halak for Florida’s fifth goal to serve as the winner, as Luongo made the final save.
“No pressure at all; I knew what I was going to do, and it worked,” Barkov said. “Sometimes you’re nervous when you go out, after everyone scored. But I knew what I would do.”
▪ Gallant kept one thing the same from Monday's game as he scratched center Dave Bolland for a second consecutive game.