SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers got off to a fast start on Sunday but ended up having a fight on their hands in an eventual 3-2 win over the Islanders at FLA Live Arena.
A blast from the slot from Ryan Lomberg early in the third helped the Panthers survive a two-goal effort from Islanders captain Anders Lee.
“I think these are really important games for us to just go through,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
“I think there’s a huge value in holding one-goal leads in third periods.”
Florida went 2-0-1 on its first homestand of the season and now head back on the road at 4-1-1.
The homestand came right after star defenseman Aaron Ekblad got hurt in Boston.
“Yeah, I mean it’s just one of those things that we try to hit the ground running and just play our game,” Spencer Knight said.
”We have played a lot of close games and it is a testament to our character. We stick to the game plan, and everyone is playing for the team and not playing for themselves.”
Anton Lundell put the Panthers in the lead 39 seconds into the game, stripping Adam Pelech of the puck on the forecheck and wedging a sharp-angle shot past Semyon Varlamov for his first goal of the year.
“It’s not easy to score here,” the 21-year-old center said.
”Sometimes you have to work really hard and trust the way you are playing that the goals will come. It will come when you play good enough and you earn those bounces.”
Eetu Luostarinen picked up a puck that bounced off of the face of Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson and sent a shot from the slot past Varlamov to give Florida a two-goal lead.
“Young players typically don’t see that as a big part of the game,” Maurice said of that line featuring Finnish youngsters Lundell and Luostarinen.
”They are playmakers and shooters but they don’t see the idea of creating offense from a hard forecheck. When they’ve done it, they have gotten some good action and I think that’s the stuff where you train young players to be hard to play against.”
The Panthers found themselves on a four-minute penalty kill after Matt Kiersted was given a double minor for high-sticking Matt Martin 3:36 into the second period.
His stick appeared to be on the ice during the review — with the stick that hit Martin likely belonging to New York teammate Cal Clutterbuck — but the penalty stood.
The Islanders cashed in on the first half of that power play.
Lee tipped a Mathew Barzal shot past Knight 51 seconds into the man advantage to cut Florida’s lead in half.
Lomberg restored that lead with a one-timer from the slot 2:56 into the second period off of a feed from White during another hard forecheck from the third line.
“I was joking with someone that ‘hey, someone had to to it’,’’ Lomberg said. “One of us was going to score there and it was huge for us. It was one of those things where we knew if we kept playing the right way, good things were coming. I am glad I could be that guy tonight.”
Florida found itself down 5-on-3 with 11:15 to go after a holding penalty on Josh Mahura and a slashing penalty on Eetu Luostarinen and Lee made them pay again.
The 6-foot-3 forward picked up a rebound of a Barzal shot and slid it past Knight to make it a one-goal game with 10:53 to go.
New York dominated special teams play, going 2-for-6 on the power play and holding Florida to 0-for-4 on the man advantage, but Knight helped the Panthers hold on for the win with 23 saves on 25 shots.
Florida has not scored in its last 18 power play opportunities. They last scored on the man advantage in a 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 15.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Maurice said.
”Finding a way when it’s not going is the most important piece to this. If we were snapping around and scoring on the power play, I wouldn’t sleep any easier. It’s been two games where we haven’t generated as much as we liked, but I’m not concerned.”
COLBY’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Anders Lee, New York (two goals)
2. Ryan Lomberg, Florida (game-winning goal)
3. Spencer Knight, Florida (23 saves, win)
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
- When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
- Where: United Center, Chicago
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 2-0
- All-time regular season series: Blackhawks lead 27-17-4, 3 ties