SUNRISE, Fla. – Radek Dvorak saw a wide-open net and made the most of it.
Dvorak’s goal with 6:32 left in the third period lifted the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night, despite a hat trick by New York’s John Tavares.
It was the first three-goal game in the NHL for Tavares, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft.
Florida went ahead for good on Dvorak’s late goal. Bryan McCabe’s shot from above the right circle bounced off goalie Rick DiPietro’s right leg and out to Dvorak. DiPietro was still on his knees and leaning to his left when Dvorak’s slap shot went past him on the right side.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘just hit the net,'” Dvorak said. “It was a wide-open net but sometimes the goalie can make an unbelievable save. I guess I was quicker, and the puck went in. It was a great relief.”
Mike Weaver, Steve Bernier, and David Booth also scored for the Panthers. Tomas Vokoun made 30 saves.
DiPietro stopped 26 shots for the Islanders (4-2-2), who had a three-game winning streak snapped.
The Islanders tied it 3-3 with 1:07 left in the second on Tavares’ third goal of the game. Blake Comeau took a shot from the right circle that was blocked. Tavares got the loose puck and slid it into an open net past Vokoun, who was leaning the other way.
“It doesn’t mean a lot. We didn’t get the two points,” Tavares said of his performance. “We just have to keep moving forward and get a little sharper.”
Florida took a 3-2 lead on Booth’s odd goal in the second. DiPietro blocked a shot by Weaver, but the puck slowly slid under his legs. Booth was able to get his blade on the puck in the crease behind DiPietro and push it in just before the net came off its moorings at 15:57.
“There were some crazy bounces around the net,” DiPietro said. “It was tough to get control of the rebounds.”
The Panthers took a 2-1 lead midway through the first. Dennis Wideman passed the puck from above the right circle across the ice to Bernier. The puck deflected off Islanders defenceman Mark Eaton’s stick, but Bernier got to the puck and fired it past DiPietro.
“He’s good around the net,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said of Tavares. “It’s one thing to be there but to battle and compete and outmuscle players is another. He’s a great example of it.”
The Islanders tied it 2-2 on Tavares’ second power-play goal. James Wisniewski’s shot was deflected, but Tavares picked up the loose puck and poked it in at 8:01.
“High marks to the Islanders,” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. “They kept coming back every time we’d get a one-goal lead. They hung around and hung around. For us, it was nice to get the win.”
Florida took a 1-0 lead at 4:58 of the first on Weaver’s first of the season. His shot from the top of the right circle got past DiPietro on the glove side.
The Islanders tied it 1-1 on a power-play goal by Tavares. Wisniewski’s shot from the point was blocked. Tavares grabbed the rebound and pushed in the puck at 9:25.
Notes: The Panthers paid tribute to Bill Torrey, the team’s first president, by raising a commemorative banner to the rafters with his name, the number 93 for the Panthers’ first year, and the Panthers colours. Torrey served as president from 1993-2002 and is still an alternate governor for the team. Torrey, a Hockey Hall of Famer, was also the first general manager of the Islanders. … Florida C Shawn Matthias was scratched due to a foot injury sustained Friday in practice. … Panthers D Jason Garrison sat out for the second straight game due to a groin injury. … New York LW Josh Bailey missed the game because of a hip injury. He is day to day.