Matt Moulson and the New York Islanders are making themselves right at home at Nassau Coliseum.
Moulson scored the decisive goal in a shootout and the Islanders beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Thursday night for their sixth straight home victory.
The Islanders (23-20-8) have won seven of their last nine overall and are 10-3-1 in their last 14. When the Islanders met the Panthers on Dec. 14 at the Coliseum, Florida claimed a 7-1 victory behind Nathan Horton’s hat trick.
“I think we’ve worked on a lot of things defensively and on our forecheck, and I think we have a lot more confidence and character than we did at that time of the season,” Moulson said. “As of a late, we’ve had a game plan and we’ve stuck to that, and that’s what’s kind of made us successful.”
The Islanders currently hold the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. They are tied with Boston for the seventh most points at 54, but the Bruins have two games in hand. Florida (21-21-9), which also dropped a 2-0 decision at New Jersey on Wednesday night, gained a point and has 51, leaving it among four teams that are three points out or closer.
“Every point is huge, especially against these teams,” Moulson said. “The teams that have been surrounding us in the playoff hunt, we haven’t gotten as many points as we’ve wanted against them. Montreal and Florida beat us twice. It’s even bigger when you can pick up points on teams around you.”
Horton scored a goal during the second period. But he was hit in the side of the leg when a teammate tried to fire the puck into the Islanders’ zone late in the third period and had to crawl to the bench.
Coach Pete DeBoer said he thought it was a bruise.
“I’m not that concerned about it,” DeBoer said.
After Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun and Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson each turned away the first shootout attempts, Rob Schremp made a few quick fakes in front and scored for the Islanders. Roloson stopped Michael Frolik. Then Moulson came straight in on Vokoun and went high for the clincher, a move he said he learned from his brother, Chris, a freshman left wing for Cornell.
“He said that it’s no fail,” said Matt Moulson, also a left wing, who has converted three of his four shootout shots this season to go with 19 goals.
Both teams had their chances before that. But Vokoun made 35 saves and Roloson made 33.
“It was a great hockey game,” DeBoer said. “It’s tough not to win, but it’s better than losing. You got two teams that you could tell everyone was looking at the standings. The level of play is different in the second half.”
Blake Comeau, who scored for the Islanders in the second period, was called for a slash with 3:24 left in the extra session. But the Islanders managed to kill off the 4-on-3 situation.
“The defense is pretty solid,” Panthers defenseman Jordan Leopold said. “It’s a matter of putting the puck in the net.”
Cory Stillman nearly gave Florida a 2-1 lead near the midpoint of the third period, but his deflected drive from the right point on a power play hit the left post.
Horton scored the first goal of the game 7:13 into the second period. The Panthers’ leading point producer sent the puck ahead to Stephen Weiss, who stickhandled toward the top of the right circle and then led Horton perfectly cutting toward the right doorstep. Horton buried the shot past Roloson, his fifth in the three games against the Islanders.
But Comeau tied it with 8:21 left in the period, circling with the puck above the left circle and slapping a rocket past the glove of Vokoun.
There were no penalties called in the first two periods.
NOTES: Islanders defenseman Andy Sutton began his two-game suspension for his hit on Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis Tuesday night. Defenseman Dustin Kohn, an American Hockey League All-Star, was recalled on loan from Bridgeport and assisted on Comeau’s goal. Forward Nate Thompson was put on waivers to create a roster spot, and he was claimed by Tampa Bay. … The Panthers welcomed back defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to the lineup. The 19-year-old rookie sat out 14 games due to a knee injury. “I think we missed his presence back there, his puck moving, his mobility, how confident he is with the puck,” DeBoer said. … With Florida playing for the second straight night, DeBoer rested defenseman Bryan Allen, who is coming off knee surgery.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.