Panthers Score 3 in 2nd, Beat Islanders 5-1

Even without some key players, the Florida Panthers got timely scoring and strong goaltending to shut down the surging New York Islanders.

Reilly Smith, Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad all scored in the second period to lead the Panthers to a 5-1 victory over the Islanders on Tuesday night.

Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau added goals in the third period, and Roberto Luongo finished with 33 saves for Florida, which was without leading-scorer Jaromir Jagr (flu) and injured forwards Nick Bjugstad and Derek MacKenzie.

"We were down a few boys tonight but we weathered the storm. That's what good teams do, find ways to win," said Luongo, who improved to 11-11-3 on the season. "We had guys step in and do the job."

Florida _ outshot by a wide margin _ kept steady pressure on the Islanders and beat them for the second time this season, along with a shootout win at home on Nov. 23.

Brock Nelson had his 10th goal of the season for New York, which snapped a five game home winning streak and a 10-game stretch overall without a loss in regulation (8-0-2). Jaroslav Halak had 12 saves.

"I'm sure he'd like to have a few of those back," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said, referring to his usually solid starting goaltender. "That's the way it goes sometimes. We just have to rebound."

After the Islanders outshot the Panthers 19-2 in a scoreless first, Smith opened the scoring at 1:51 of the second with a slap shot from the right circle for his ninth goal of the season.

"I didn't think it was as bad for us as the shot totals were in the first," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We buried our chances after that. It was a real solid team game."

Barkov, who also had two assists, made it 2-0 for the Panthers with his seventh of the season, an unassisted goal, at 7:25 of the second.

Nelson pulled the Islanders to 2-1 with 7:23 remaining in the period when his shot dribbled past Luongo.

However, Ekblad scored 20 seconds later to restore the two-goal lead. The goal was the defenseman's seventh.

Trocheck extended the lead to 4-1 at 1:23 of the third period with his ninth of the season.

Huberdeau was awarded an empty-net short-handed goal with 3:43 left when he was pulled down as he tried to score, his fourth this season.

"They had all those opportunities early and couldn't score. I think that frustrated them," Smith said.

The 36-year-old Luongo leads active goaltenders with 412 wins and 888 games played. He wasn't especially tested except for glove saves on Kyle Okposo in the first and John Tavares in the second. He kept his cool during the Islanders shots barrage in the first.

"It's my job to make saves and keep is in it," added Luongo, a first-round draft pick by the Islanders in 1997. "We found our legs in the second and got going. In the last 40 minutes, we were scoring, blocking shots and making plays - all the things that help you win."

Florida recalled Rocco Grimaldi from AHL Portland for the game. The Panthers also dressed rarely used right wing Logan Shaw and center Corban Knight, who made his Panthers debut.

Halak had been 4-0-2 in his last six games. He lost for the first time since Nov. 12 at Los Angeles, when the Kings won 2-1.

The Islanders did smother three Panther power plays, extending their streak to 24 straight penalty kills.

The Panthers have won the last four meetings against the Islanders - including twice in shootouts _ but New York is still 6-4-2 in their last 12 games against Florida.

Islanders forward Ryan Strome returned after missing Sunday's win over New Jersey with an upper body injury.

New York travels to Colorado and Arizona before hosting Anaheim prior to the Christmas break. The Panthers visit the Devils on Thursday and Carolina Hurricanes on Friday before returning to Florida for a six-game homestand.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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