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Grabner, Islanders sail past Panthers

Apr 17, 2013 - 3:42 AM
Uniondale, NY (Sports Network) - Michael Grabner scored a pair of goals and the New York Islanders moved another step closer towards earning a postseason berth after coming through with a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers at Nassau Coliseum.

Mark Streit added a goal and an assist and Evgeni Nabokov recorded 26 saves to help the Islanders notch a point for an eighth consecutive game (6-0-2) and move three points ahead of the crosstown rival Rangers for the Eastern Conference's No. 7 seed with five games remaining in the regular season. The Isles also remained one point behind sixth-place Ottawa after the Senators downed Carolina on Tuesday.

New York, which hasn't made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season, also received goals from Matt Moulson and Radek Martinek in dealing the lowly Panthers a third straight defeat.

"It's a lot of fun to play in these meaningful games at the end of the year," Moulson said. "Each one has been intense, no matter who we're playing. It's been that way for the last three weeks."

Marcel Goc finished with a goal and an assist and Dmitry Kulikov netted a power-play tally for Florida. Jacob Markstrom stopped just 13-of-18 shots before being removed early in the second period in favor of Scott Clemmensen, who turned back all 13 chances he faced.

"It's never fun to get pulled as a goalie," Markstrom said afterward. "Anybody's that's been a goalie and been pulled, it's embarrassing. It's tough."

Moulson's successful redirection of Thomas Hickey's shot gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead just over eight minutes into the game, and a costly double-minor high-sticking penalty to Florida defenseman Eric Gudbranson not long afterward allowed New York to increase the margin further.

The infraction gave the Isles a 5-on-3 power play for more than a minute. While still on the two-man advantage, Streit buried a slap shot from the right circle past Markstrom with 6:01 left in the opening frame for a two-goal differential.

With Gudbranson still serving the penalty, Grabner got by a pair of Florida defenders after taking in a terrific outlet pass from Andrew MacDonald and converted the breakaway attempt to put New York up 3-0 with 3:13 remaining in the session.

"We came out strong, especially in the first 10 minutes," Grabner remarked.

Florida was able to enter the first intermission with a bit of momentum when Kulikov fired a well-placed wrist shot over Nabokov's right shoulder with the Panthers on a power play 85 seconds after Grabner's first goal.

It turned out to be short-lived, though, after the Islanders tallied twice within a 14-second span early in the second period.

Martinek's one-timer in transition from the right point with 3:19 elapsed in the stanza extended the lead to 4-1, and Grabner scored on a backhander off a Florida giveaway shortly after the ensuing faceoff to place the Panthers in an even larger hole.

Goc cut the deficit slightly by slipping Tomas Kopecky's feed into an open net with Nabokov taken out of position at the 7:44 mark of the second period, but the Panthers got no closer despite outshooting New York by a 12-7 count in the final 20 minutes.

The Islanders killed off a pair of third-period penalties to sew up the win, with Florida's Brian Campbell hitting the post on one of those opportunities.

Game Notes

The win was Jack Capuano's 82nd as the Islanders' head coach, putting him past Terry Simpson and into sole possession of second place in franchise history. Al Arbour stands atop the list with 740 victories ... Tomas Fleischmann assisted on both Florida goals and now has 10 points (3G, 7A) over his past nine games ... Panthers defenseman Filip Kuba sat out the game with a lower-body injury, while forward Peter Mueller was inactive due to his wife giving birth to the couple's first child ... The Islanders improved to 16-3-3 when scoring first this season, while the Panthers fell to 3-20-4 when giving up the game's initial goal.