Right winger Scottie Upshall's scored the go-ahead and insurance
goals in the third period Sunday, when the Panthers fell behind by
two goals in a fight-filled first period before scoring four
unanswered goals in the third period of a 5-3 win over the New York
Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
In winning a rare matchup of NHL also-rans, the Panthers (23-31-7)
ended a five-game losing streak and won for just the second time in
their last nine games.
Florida faced a 2-0 deficit Sunday for the sixth time in that
nine-game span, but the Panthers, who have scored 61 of their 151
goals in the third period this year, stormed back and took the lead
for good during a 7:15 stretch in the first half of the third.
"It's been kind of clockwork lately, where we get down early in the
game," Upshall said. "Tonight I just think we had our best period in
the last 20 (minutes)."
The first 20 minutes were certainly the feistiest on both sides. The
Panthers and Islanders (23-32-8) began play Sunday as two of the six
NHL teams more than five points out of a playoff spot, and both
clubs aired out their frustrations in the first period that featured
14 penalties and 34 penalty minutes.
The fisticuffs began 2:25 into the game, when Islanders left winger
Eric Boulton and Panthers right winger Krys Barch engaged in a
lengthy brawl that began at center ice and ended in front of the
Overall on Sunday, the two teams combined for 24 penalties and 54
"Both teams, we're grinding right now," Upshall said. "It's a part
of the year where things don't go well. You've got to dig deep. And
you see guys just playing on edge."
The Panthers appeared on the edge of getting blown out when
Islanders left winger Thomas Vanek -- who turned down a contract
extension from New York last month and is expected to be dealt
before Wednesday's trade deadline -- scored twice in a 58-second
Less than two minutes after Vanek's second goal, the Islanders
embarked on a 5-on-3 power play. But goaltender Tim Thomas (35
saves) made four impressive stops to keep the deficit at two goals.
"It was so long ago and so much happened in that game that I forgot
about (the power play)," Thomas said with a laugh. "I was just
trying to battle. And with Vanek having two pretty quick goals, I
really didn't want to let him have the hat trick."
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The Panthers began clawing back late in the second on the first of
two goals by center Shawn Matthais. Islanders center Ryan Strome
scored less than a minute later to once again give the Islanders a
two-goal lead, but Florida center Marcel Goc and Matthias scored in
the first 4:18 of the third.
Matthias set up Upshall's winner when his slapshot was initially
stopped by Islanders goaltender Anders Nilsson. But the puck landed
just to the left of the net and Upshall swooped in and put it into
"The third period we put together was astounding," Thomas said.
"What I liked was once we started to comeback there in the third, we
just kept going and we had the killer instinct we've been looking
for in that situation."
Upshall iced the game with a rare power-play goal with 4:34 left.
The Panthers have scored on just 9.3 percent of their power plays
(19 of 204). The lowest power-play figure of all-time is 9.35
percent by the 1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning.
"It seems like it got a little chippy at the beginning and for a
while and then it settled down," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said.
"We're a team that's lost a few games in a row and we needed to win
a game. And I think our guys took some pride in that."
Nilsson made 29 saves for the Islanders, who also gave up four goals
in the second period of a 6-1 loss to New Jersey on Saturday. The
Islanders have blown a two-goal lead in 10 of their 40 losses.
"We've got to do a better job for 60 minutes," Strome said.
NOTES: Prior to the game, the Islanders activated C Frans Nielsen
from injured reserve and sent LW Mike Halmo to Bridgeport of the
AHL. Nielsen suffered a broken hand on Feb. 8 but missed just two
games thanks to the Olympic break. ... Among the Islanders'
scratches was D Travis Hamonic, who served the one-game suspension
he received for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of New
York's 6-1 loss to New Jersey on Saturday. Also scratched were LW
Matt Martin (lower body) and D Radek Martinek. ... The Panthers had
a pair of healthy scratches: C Scott Gomez and D Ed Jovanovski. ...
D Mike Weaver, who was a healthy scratch Saturday because Panthers
coach Peter Horachek was displeased with his performance against
Washington, was back in the starting lineup for Florida. ... The
Panthers complete a three-game road trip at Boston on Tuesday, when
the Islanders begin a four-game Canadian trek at Winnipeg.
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