PANTHERS 4, ISLANDERS 3
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
It was more than fitting for Radek Dvorak to be the hero on the night the Panthers honored franchise founding father Bill Torrey.
Dvorak, drafted by the Panthers in 1995 when Torrey was Florida's team president, stole the spotlight away from the Islanders' John Tavares as he scored off a long rebound late in the third period to give the Panthers a hard-fought 4-3 victory at BankAtlantic Center.
“It was a big win for us, we bounced back from a game in which we didn't play well,'' said Dvorak, who joked Friday he would wear a bow tie during warm ups as a homage to Torrey. “It was a nice ending to Mr. Torrey night. We had a great start and this thanked him for everything he's done for us.''
Tavares, the first pick of the 2009 Draft, recorded his first hat trick as he answered Florida goals with one of his own as the Panthers never built more than a one goal lead. Tavares didn't match Dvorak's goal, however, as the Panthers leave for another Canadian road trip after winning two of three in their first homestand of the season.
The Panthers set a franchise record by beating the Islanders for the eighth straight time on home ice.
“[Dvorak] speaks very highly of Bill Torrey an has found memories of being drafted when Bill was in charge here,'' said coach Pete DeBoer, whose team is 3-3-0.
The Panthers were beaten soundly in their last outing on Thursday, but Saturday was a different story. Florida came out with a nice jump, taking a 1-0 lead when Mike Weaver got his first goal of his Florida career. The defenseman misfired on a puck on Thursday, but Saturday, he fired a long shot from the right circle to beat Rick DiPietro at 4:58 of the opening period.
“We needed that. You have you off games, but we had to stop it at one,'' said Weaver. “Everyone knew what they had to do. .-.-. It took me 180 games to get my first one in St. Louis. It was nice to contribute in that department.''
Florida came into the night as the only team in the league to not surrender a power play goal. The Panthers had been good with the refs, taking just 10 penalties in five games. On Saturday, the Panthers were called for five infractions – and Tavares made the Panthers penalty kill pay for it. Tavares first goal came with David Booth in the box. His second came with Bryan McCabe serving a slashing penalty.
Tavares' third goal was a beauty as he fell down in front of the net but was able to shovel the puck past Tomas Vokoun. That goal tied the game 3-3.
“You try to key on him and he brought his game up,'' Weaver said of Tavares. “That was a nice goal, but we got the win. Great goal for him.''
David Booth gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead in the second after jumping on a loose puck DiPietro lost off a Weaver shot. Booth crashed into and dislodged the cage, prompting officials to review the play in Toronto. It counted.
Torrey was honored by the team before Saturday night's game as a large banner was raised to the rafters. Torrey's banner has his name and the No. 93 – representing the franchise's first season. That number has been retired in honor of Torrey.
Special guests for the pregame ceremony included former owner H. Wayne Huizenga, former broadcaster Jiggs McDonald and Hall of Famers Emile Francis, Bob Pulford, Harry Sindin, Lou Nanne and Jim Gregory. Members of Torrey's family also attended.
The team gave Torrey a vacation at a golf resort in Oregon, a three-year lease on a Lexus and will place a bronze plaque in their Den of Honor.
Said Torrey: “My family has been my blessing. They've supported me and gave me the inspiration to try and succeed in every endeavor. I bow my head to them.''
-- Michael Grabner faced his former team Saturday – although his stay in South Florida was short and completely forgettable. Grabner, whom Florida acquired in the summer, was waived after a poor training camp. Grabner was picked up by the Islanders and had two goals and an assist through six games.
Florida had room to keep Grabner, but the Panthers felt center Mike Santorelli won a roster spot making Grabner expendable.
“Good for him. Some guys are better fits in other places,'' said DeBoer. “The bottom line was we came into camp with an open competition concept and we stuck to it.''
-- Matthias took a puck off a skate during Friday's practice and missed Saturday's game. Jason Garrison (groin) missed his second straight game. Both could return Tuesday.
Florida Panthers Bounce Back, Beat Islanders 4-3
PANTHERS 4, ISLANDERS 3