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Cizikas scores game winner as Islanders beat Panthers 4-3

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Casey Cizikas' game-winning goal was the easy part, according to the New York Islanders' center.

Cizikas snapped a tie with a late goal that gave the Islanders a rare win on Florida Panthers' home ice -- a 4-3 victory Saturday night at the BB&T Center.

After the Islanders had blown a 3-0 third-period lead, Cizikas scored on a wrist shot with 7:05 left, his fourth goal of the season. Colin McDonald and Keith Aucoin were credited with assists.

"Me, 'Mac' and 'Coiner' were just trying to be that third line, energy line, and get us back into it,' Cizikas said. "We worked hard enough, and to be rewarded with a goal is always nice. But the focus was just to get momentum back on our side."

Cizikas said he appreciates the hard work his linemates put in to get the winning goal.

"Mac and Coiner were working their (butts) off down low," Cizikas said. "Coiner made a simple play chipping it behind to Mac, and Mac made a great play behind the net, finding me right there. I just tried to get it off as quick as possible.

"It's easy to be the goal scorer when you have guys working their (guts) off for you."

The Panthers were 9-0-2 in their past 11 games on their home ice vs. the Islanders but ran into a hot team on Saturday. The Islanders are 5-1-2 in their past eight games.

This was the teams' first meeting this year, but already the Islanders have matched last season's win total against the Panthers, who won three of the four games.

Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who beat Tampa Bay 2-0 on Thursday, got his 13th win of the season. He has all of the Islanders' wins this year and is 6-3-1 in his career against the Panthers. He ranks among the top six in the NHL this season in wins.

Nabokov, though, was not pleased that his team gave up those three quick goals.

"In order to get to the top, we have to learn from this," Nabokov said. "I'm not going to say we made mistakes. But we just have to sense that this (run) may come, and we have to have a plan how to play against that. I'm sure we will talk about it."

The Islanders got goals from Kyle Okposo, Radek Martinek and Brad Boyes to take a 3-0 lead.

The Panthers tied the score with three third-period goals in the span of 1:43 but couldn't close the deal.

"In this league, everyone can score - everyone is good," Cizikas said. "If you take five or 10 minutes off and lose focus, that (Florida's three quick goals) is what happens. That was a perfect example of why you have to play a full 60 minutes."

Panthers backup goalie Scott Clemmensen, making his second consecutive start, took the loss and is now 1-3-2 lifetime against the Isles.

Okposo scored the Isles' first goal in the first period, firing a slap shot from the high slot. It was his third goal of the season.

A little over two minutes later, Clemmensen was screened by heavy traffic in front of his crease and Martinek took advantage by scoring his second goal of the year, on a wrist shot.

With just 33 seconds gone in the second period, the Islanders tried to bury the Panthers, getting a wrist shot from Boyes for his eighth goal of the season.

But defenseman T.J. Brennan, making his Panthers debut after being acquired from Buffalo on Friday in exchange for a fifth-round pick, put Florida on the board, scoring with 5:09 elapsed in the third period.

"I just tried to jump in on the play," Brennan said. "It was nice to give us some momentum."

Just 44 seconds later, the Panthers struck again. This time it was Marcel Goc scoring his third goal of the season. Mike Santorelli tied the score with his second goal of the season.

"I like that we came back," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "We responded in a positive way. It's just a matter of sticking with it (to get the win)."

NOTES: Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who had been out since Jan. 29 with a lower-body injury, returned to the ice on Saturday. ... Islanders winger David Ullstrom, who left Thursday's game with a groin injury, has been placed on injured reserve and is expected to miss one month. ... Islanders winger Colin McDonald, who missed Thursday's game with an illness, was back on the ice Saturday. He also signed a two-year, $1,3 million contract extension on Friday. ... Scratched from the Islanders' lineup Saturday was defenseman Joe Finley. ... Scratched from the Panthers' lineup were forward Alex Kovalev and defenseman Colby Robak. ... Two-thirds of the Panthers' top line is out for the year -- Stephen Weiss (wrist) and Kris Versteeg (knee). Versteeg was the most recent casualty, being ruled out earlier this week. ... Overall, the Panthers are without eight injured players, including their starting goalie, three defensemen and four forwards. Combined, that equals to $23 million in salaries. ... Up next for the Panthers is a season-long five-game road trip, starting Tuesday in Carolina. The Panthers return home from the trip on March 28. ... The Islanders return home for a four-game homestand that ends March 24 against the Panthers.
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