Two nights after losing to the Florida Panthers on home ice in Brooklyn, the New York Islanders returned the favor in Sunrise.
The Islanders, residing in the Eastern Conference cellar a season after knocking the Panthers out of the playoffs, got a hat trick from John Tavares and beat Florida 5-2 at BB&T Center on Friday night.
Florida once again was stymied in its quest for an elusive winning streak, as the Panthers have not won more than two consecutive games this season.
The Islanders, who lost to Florida 2-1 at Barclays Center on Wednesday, took a 2-0 lead on their first two shots of Friday’s game.
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“It was a rough game all around,” Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo said. “We came out flat, we weren’t ready to play as a team — myself included. They were hungrier; they got called out by their coach and they were the hungrier team. That’s the bottom line. They wanted it more. They had the lead in the third and they kept coming.”
Jason Chimera broke the ice 2:22 in when he boxed in front of Luongo and jammed the puck through.
Just 88 seconds later, Tavares — Luongo’s postseason nemesis — made it 2-0 from the top of the left circle.
Florida cut its deficit in half when Vincent Trocheck got his 13th of the season by smacking at a loose puck from the slot midway through the period.
The Islanders failed to pad their lead despite a full-on two-man advantage in the second as Florida defenders Mark Pysyk (playing without his stick for a long portion of it), Mike Matheson and Trocheck — along with Luongo — kept the Islanders at bay despite having Seth Griffith and Jakub Kindl in the box simultaneously.
Later in the period, after Thomas Greiss stopped Florida’s momentum with some nice saves following the big kill, New York took a 3-1 lead when Nick Leddy scored his second on Luongo in the home-and-home series.
“We took too many penalties even though we killed all of them; we gave them 5-on-3 twice and took momentum away from ourselves,” Jaromir Jagr said.
“They had too many power plays; some guys were used too much, some guys not at all. The flow of the game just wasn’t there.”
Florida made it a one-goal game again early in the third when Reilly Smith fired a shot past Greiss with two seconds left on Florida’s third power-play chance of the night, as Jagr blocked the goalie’s view.
“They got off to a hot start and found the back of the net,” Smith said, “but that’s no excuse for the rest of the game. They were the better team, beat us up and down the ice too much. Even without the first two goals, they were the better team.”
Tavares all but wrapped things up when he scored his second goal of the night with 12:10 remaining to make it 4-2.
With 1:44 left, Tavares got his third of the game into an empty net, leading one fan to toss their cap onto the frozen ring.
“We made some strides on the road and then we come home and play like that,” Luongo said. “It starts with me. I have to be ready early and make some big saves, get the guys going.”