UNIONDALE, N.Y. – For the second consecutive game, the Florida Panthers overcame an early deficit on the road and picked up a key win.
Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, Tyson Strachan and Jack Skille scored and the Panthers earned a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Sunday.
Goalie Jose Theodore made 26 saves in his first appearance since Jan. 20 after suffering a knee injury.
The Panthers swept a set of back-to-back games for the first time in nine attempts this season after a come-from-behind win over New Jersey on Saturday.
Florida has its first three-game winning streak since Dec. 8.
“It’s been two solid games and it’s satisfying when you get rewarded for playing hard,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “It’s not fun putting ourselves down a goal early but I think when we got down, it didn’t seem to (hamper) us too badly.”
The Panthers’ quick-strike offence supported Theodore with two goals off faceoffs and four unanswered goals overall to erase a 1-0 deficit.
Frans Nielsen scored the Islanders’ goal on the team’s first shot at 3:35 of the first.
Theodore then stopped every subsequent shot, including six on New York power-play attempts, in coming back from a three-week layoff.
Fleischmann and Versteeg each finished with two points.
“I was just looking forward to get this game in and I was feeling better as the game went on,” Theodore said. “I’ll have to work hard in practice to get my game to where it was a couple of months ago.”
Strachan notched his first career goal in the first and Fleischmann, Versteeg and Skille scored three goals in a 14:16 span in the second period to turn a tie game into a 4-1 advantage heading into the final period.
Florida remained in first place in the Southeast Division and third place in the conference with 65 points.
New York lost an opportunity to pick up points for the sixth time in seven games and trails Toronto by eight points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It wasn’t a good first two periods but we have no excuses,” said Islanders centre John Tavares, who has one point in his past six games. “We had some breakdowns.”
Making his fourth start in six days, Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov allowed three goals on six shots in the second and made just 11 saves on 15 shots before being lifted for backup Al Montoya to start the third.
“We passed up a lot of shots,” Islanders captain Mark Streit said. “It’s painful. We set ourselves up with a big victory yesterday and we couldn’t build on it today.”
Fleischmann tipped in Versteeg’s pass from the left post for his 18th goal to break a 1-all tie 4:17 into the second. The duo are roommates on road trips, helping to build a chemistry on Florida’s top line that also includes Stephen Weiss.
“He hit my stick exactly where it needed to be, it was a great pass by him,” Fleischmann said. “I was just driving to the net and the pass went right on my tape. I didn’t have to do anything. It just hit it and went in the net.”
Versteeg tied a career high with his 22nd goal on a right circle wrister on a power-play goal at 11:41.
Tomas Kopecky screened Nabokov as Versteeg’s shot beat him on the high glove-side.
The 36-year-old Nabokov entered the game having allowed only five goals on 135 shots in five games since the all-star break. But he allowed his fourth goal of the game with 1:27 left in the second on Skille’s goal off a draw.
“When you give up two faceoff goals and a power-play goal, you’re not going to win games,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “When you break it down, we had quality chances but I look at the work ethic and the structure, and we didn’t execute our breakout in the first period.”
New York came out strong when Nielsen converted P.A. Parenteau’s pass for a goal less than four minutes in.
But Strachan’s right-point slap shot off Marcel Goc’s faceoff win tied it at 14:57. Goc has three assists in his past two games.
Florida gave up agoal in the first four minutes for the fourth time in the past five games, but used it as a rallying point.
“We started slow the last few games and it woke us up and gave us a jump start,” Versteeg said. “We’ve found ways to win.”
Notes: Panthers defenceman Jason Garrison did not play after suffering a lower-body injury in Saturday’s game at New Jersey. … Fleischmann’s goal marked his 200th career point. … Brian Campbell added an assist for his 350th career point. … Islanders defenceman Andrew MacDonald recorded a point in consecutive games for the first time this season. … Former Islanders and Panthers general manager Bill Torrey was in attendance.