SUNRISE, Fla. -- Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek has been pleading with his team to get off to better starts, get balanced production from his lines and turn outstanding chances into goals.
Check, check and check.
The Panthers got goals from their three young centers -- none of whom have played more than 53 NHL games -- in the first period and held on for a 4-2 victory over the improving New York Islanders on Tuesday night at the BB&T Center.
Throw in a shorthanded goal by a slumping Scottie Upshall, another solid outing by goalie Tim Thomas (6-1-2 in his last nine) and it was nearly a perfect game by the Panthers, although they did go 0 for 5 on their 30th-ranked power play to extend their power outage to seven games (0 for 22).
Picky, picky, picky.
"I wanted to make sure you guys knew we could score some goals, so we tried to do it early in the game," joked Horachek to the media. "When you get out to a lead, you know they're going to come and you kind of get on your heels and sit back and they start to put a big push on. ... It's better to be there than on the other side.
"The guys battled down to the very end and Timmy played his normal solid self."
The Panthers, 4-1-2 in their last seven games, snapped the Islanders' four-game winning streak and also ended their impressive seven-game road victory run, one shy of tying a franchise record set in 1980-81.
The Panthers, who had been doubled by the opposition in the first period (44-22), scored three goals in any period for the first time since their opening-night 4-2 victory over the Stars. They had scored just three goals in regulation during their recent 1-1-1 road trip.
Just 32 seconds after the opening faceoff, the torrid B-Unit line of Brad Boyes, rookie center Aleksander Barkov and Sean Bergenheim struck paydirt for the team's fastest goal of the season, topping a Boyes' goal scored 1:55 into the 6-3 home-opener victory over the Penguins.
An Islanders' turnover at the blue line ignited a 2-on-1 rush by Barkov and Boyes. The dynamic duo exchanged four touch passes so quickly they had young Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin's head spinning before Barkov slammed it into the vacant net for the eighth goal of his 46-game career.
The B-Unit had accounted for 11 of the Panthers' last 17 goals before the fourth line chipped in. Dirty work along the boards by Krys Barch kept the puck in the offensive zone until center Drew Shore wheeled and fired the puck off the stick of Isles' defenseman Brian Strait for his first goal of the season and fourth of his 52-game career.
Slumping forward Shawn Matthias provided a towering screen in front of Poulin, who had won his last five starts. Panthers captain Ed Jovanovski notched the first two assists of his young season and first points since Jan. 26, 2013.
"They were playing with a lot of confidence, so we knew the start was (big). We didn't want to let them start the game off on their tone, so we came out well," Shore said.
Moments after Thomas stoned Isles superstar center John Tavares in the slot, the Panthers' second line got into the act as Upshall delivered a delicious pass up ice to center Nick Bjugstad, who fended off a draping defender before one-handing it in with 36 seconds left in the first. It was Bjugstad's 10th goal of his 40-game rookie season.
Upshall ended a 15-game goal drought with an exciting solo dash up ice during an Islanders' power play in the second period before depositing a forehand at 15:59.
"A good opening shift by the B-Unit got us off to a great start," said Upshall, who scored his seventh goal on Florida's second shorty of the season. "The combination of great goaltending and our first period was a deciding factor in the game."
The Islanders got on the board three seconds after their power play expired when winger Colin McDonald swatted in a rebound with 31 seconds left in the second. Franz Neilsen set up Thomas Vanek for a layup to make it 4-2 at 2:38 of the third and cause 13,730 Panthers' fans to squirm.
However, Thomas had 31 saves as he held down the fort with the Islanders' net empty for the final two minutes.
Hosting '15 Draft
The NHL and Panthers officially announced that they will host the 2015 NHL Draft on Friday and Saturday, June 26-27, 2015 at the BB&T Center.
"The draft is a great event and actually comes at a time when hoteliers need to fill their hotels," Panthers President Michael Yormark said. "It's great for us; it's great for them; it's great for the hotels and for Broward County."
The Panthers also hosted the 2001 draft. Yormark said the BB&T Center is on the "radar" for a future NHL All-Star game in the "not so distant future.'"
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