ISLANDERS 4, PANTHERS 3 (SO)
An old problem came back to haunt the Panthers on Saturday night. Florida came into the third period holding a lead on the visiting Islanders only to watch New York score two quick goals to take the lead.
Stephen Weiss' goal with almost seven minutes left tied it to force overtime, yet the Panthers ended their season-long seven-game home stretch with a loss as the Islanders scored twice in the shootout to win 4-3 at BankAtlantic Center.
The Islanders had lost six straight road games prior to Saturday's win.
“It was disappointing, going into the third with a 2-1 lead and then give up four shots and lose the game,'' coach Pete DeBoer said afterward. “I thought we deserved better but give the Islanders credit. They're opportunistic and don't need many chances around the net to score. We had chances, but you need to have the killer instinct to make it 3-1 at some point. .-.-. We've struggled through that all year. You let teams hang around and bad things happen.''
Florida trailed 1-0 in the second period after the two teams played through a scoreless first. Evgeny Dadonov, in the lineup for the first time in 20 games, made a triumphant return as he scored twice in the period to give the Panthers that 2-1 lead heading into the third.
Dadonov, out since Feb. 2 with a broken finger, had been struggling before being hurt. Dadonov went eight games without registering a single point. He had been strong before, however, scoring four goals with seven assists in his first 17 games with the team.
He looked strong on Saturday, saying he was excited to get back on the ice although the long time off took its toll.
“I scored two goals, yes, but I wasn't as lucky defensively,'' said Dadonov, who was on the ice for all three of New York's goals. “It's pretty hard to come back after missing 20 games. I'm going to try and get better. It's hard to get back in game situation. I knew what I had to do but I couldn't. My brain knew what to do.''
Dadonov's first goal was set up by a nice pass from defenseman Clay Wilson as he poked the puck past goalie Rick DiPietro – who coincidentally was playing in his first game since being hurt on the same night Dadonov was. Dadonov's second goal came on a nifty wrist shot as he slid from the right circle into the slot.
After that, however, the Panthers didn't get much going against DiPietro.
“It's disappointing to not get the win,'' said Weiss, who beat DiPietro with a long slap shot from beyond the left circle.
The Panthers had two prime chances to win the game. Soon after Weiss' goal, Dadonov found Mike Santorelli in front of the net with DiPietro out of position. In overtime, David Booth was pulled down by Andrew McDonald with 28.9 seconds left. Booth was awarded a penalty shot but was stopped on a kick save by DiPietro.
DiPietro made 29 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped Santorelli and Sergei Samsonov in the shootout. Scott Clemmensen, starting after shutting out the Maple Leafs on Thursday, gave up goals to P.A. Parenteau and Frans Nielsen in the shootout. Parenteau scored the game-tying goal on Clemmensen at 7:09 of the third.
Panthers assistant general manager Mike Santos said a report in Friday's Miami Herald that Santorelli had been offered a two-year contract “is not true,'' adding that the team is in conversations with Santorelli's agent.
Panthers president Michael Yormark told a group of season ticket holders on Tuesday that there was a two-year deal “on the table” to Santorelli and that the team was just waiting to have him sign it.
Santos said he would like to get something done with Santorelli “quickly.'' Santorelli, who has 18 goals this season, is a restricted free agent meaning the Panthers would not lose him to free agency unless they wanted to. Santorelli says he wants to remain with the organization.
-- DeBoer said injured players Alexander Sulzer (oblique), Jack Skille (ankle) and Shawn Matthias (ankle) would all be going on Florida's five-game road trip that kicks off Tuesday in Madison Square Garden. All three are expected to return to the lineup sometime this week.
-- The Panthers signed junior player Jonathan Hazen to a three-year entry level contract on Friday. Hazen, 20, has 39 goals and 41 assists in 61 games for his junior team in Quebec. Hazen, who was an undrafted free agent, has 224 points in 241 games played during his junior career and is expected to start next season with Florida's AHL team – although he will have a shot to make the team out of training camp.
Santos said if there were games left after Hazen's junior season ends, he could play a few games with Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., this season.
Welcome Back: Rick DiPietro Gets Win in First Game Back as Islanders Win 4-3 in SO ... Evgeny Dadonov Gets Two in Return
ISLANDERS 4, PANTHERS 3 (SO)