UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer was hoping Nathan Horton would sometimes be more selfish and shoot instead of pass.
Horton acted out his coach’s wish, scoring three times on a game-high five shots for his second career hat trick as the Panthers routed the New York Islanders 7-1 on Monday night.
Michal Repik, Stephen Weiss, Kamil Kreps and Radek Dvorak added goals as the Panthers (13-14-7) won for just the third time in 13 games.
“He’s not a shoot-first guy, which is rare for a guy with his skill,” DeBoer said of Horton. “We’re constantly on him to shoot more. But it’s not a bad attribute to be an unselfish player. He’s one of the few players that has that wow factor and can bring people out of their seats.”
Jesse Joensuu scored his first goal of the season for the Islanders (12-14-7), which lost for the fourth time in the past five games.
Thomas Vokoun extended his mastery over the Islanders, improving to 11-4-0 in 15 starts after making 30 saves. The 33-year-old netminder entered with a 2.10 goals against average and .929 save percentage against New York.
Florida scored twice off breakaways and three times off turnovers against Dwayne Roloson as the Panthers ended a four-game road trip 2-2.
“Our guys made terrific moves and great shots,” Vokoun said. “We’ve had trouble scoring on breakaways (but) today guys made great moves and put the puck right underneath the bar and there wasn’t much chance for the goalies.”
Despite the poor won-loss record, Florida has picked up points in eight of its last 13 contests including road wins against the Devils and Islanders.
“I liked the fact the last couple of nights that when we had a team down, we found a way to close them out,” DeBoer said. “We have to continue to do that.”
Horton scored twice in the second and added Florida’s last goal for his first hat trick since Dec. 13, 2005, against Nashville. He also assisted on Weiss’ goal for the four-point evening.
“I should probably shoot some more,” Horton said. “I’m just trying to do what I can. We needed a win tonight to make it an OK road trip.”
The Panthers made it a blowout with two goals in the third period’s first 55 seconds. Weiss capitalized when rookie John Tavares mishandled a neutral zone puck and scored just 15 seconds into the final period.
Kreps’ first goal of the season 35 seconds later forced Roloson to the bench in favour of Martin Biron. Dvorak and Horton each scored against Biron for the final margin.
“I think at 7-1, it’s tough to just turn the page,” Islanders defenceman Mark Streit said. “Every player needs to do some soul searching and go home and think about what happened.
“We have a pretty good team if everyone is on the same page. If we try to do it on our own, it’s not going to work,” he said.
Repik energized Florida after a lacklustre start with his breakaway goal 14:28 in. The rookie winger chipped the puck away from defenceman Bruno Gervais in the neutral zone and raced in alone before completing a forehand-to-backhand move, lifting a shot over a sprawling Roloson for his second goal.
“I got a little more ice time today and I was feeling great,” said Repik, who was recalled from AHL Rochester on Dec. 12. “As soon as you get here you need to play harder because it’s a tougher league.”
New York allowed the opening goal for the fifth time in the last six games. The Islanders will now face the New York Rangers in a home-and-home matchup.
“To be honest we were a team that forgot we were playing tonight and we’re looking forward to the Rangers games,” Roloson said.
Horton picked up his first goal in seven games thanks to a fortuitous bounce when his centring pass hit defenceman Jack Hillen’s skate in front of the crease and slid into the back of the net for a short-lived 2-0 edge.
Joensuu answered back for New York just 1:24 later, slamming home a close-range shot in front for his first goal in two games since being recalled from the American Hockey League.
But Horton re-established the Panthers’ two-goal lead with a breakaway short-handed goal at the 12:40 mark. Florida entered with the league’s worst road power-play unit but scored down a man when Horton stole the puck from Streit and beat Roloson high on a hard wrist shot.
Horton, who tallied at least 22 goals for Florida the past four seasons, netted his first multi-goal game since Jan. 3 last season against Pittsburgh. Florida had 10 players pick up at least a point.
“It’s not just me. Everybody contributed and its a nice win,” Horton said.
The Islanders’ offence continued to sputter and coach Scott Gordon’s team has registered just eight goals in five games.
“There wasn’t anything that went our way and we didn’t do anything to help matters, Gordon said. “Every loose puck, we lost.”
NOTES: Florida centre Dominic Moore was back in the lineup after missing the previous game with an upper body injury. Horton and Weiss each extended their team-high points streak to three games. … Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro will miss his rehab start for AHL Bridgeport Tuesday. DiPietro experienced leg tightness during a minor league conditioning stint against Springfield Friday. … Defenceman Andy Sutton returned to action for the first time since straining his groin Nov. 27. … Josh Bailey has not had a shot on goal in 23 straight periods. The second-year forward played in his 100th career game.