UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Evgeni Nabokov made Andrew MacDonald's first period goal stand up in his 55th career shutout as the New York Islanders snapped a three-game losing streak and earned a rare home win Sunday by defeating the Florida Panthers, 3-0, at Nassau Coliseum.
John Tavares and Casey Cizikas scored empty netters in the final 31 seconds after Nabokov survived a frantic Panthers flurry in front of the goalmouth.
The shutout was the third of the season for Nabokov, who had 26 saves, and the first at home for the Islanders since a 1-0 win over the Devils on March 4, 2012.
The win kept the Islanders (14-15-3) on the periphery of the Eastern Conference playoff race heading into a season-ending stretch in which New York plays 11 of its final 16 games on the road. The Islanders moved within one point of the Rangers and Hurricanes, who entered play Sunday tied for eighth in the East at 32 points.
Most teams would prefer to be home for the playoff race, but leaving Nassau Coliseum appears to be the Islanders' best hope as they try to snap a five-season postseason drought. The Islanders improved to just 6-11-2 at home, but they are 8-4-1 on the road and have posted a winning record on all three multi-game road trips this season.
New York opens a four-game road trip Tuesday at Washington and ends the season with a five-game trek from Apr. 18-26. In between, the Islanders play just five more times at Nassau Coliseum.
The Panthers, meanwhile, continued to struggle regardless of locale as their NHL-worst record sunk to 9-18-6. Florida is the only team in the NHL with fewer home wins than the Islanders (the Panthers are 4-8-5 at home) and the only team with a losing record both at home and on the road (6-9-1).
Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves in an impressive outing.
The Islanders took the lead 6:05 into the game when McDonald's shot from beyond the right faceoff circle sailed past Markstrom for a power play goal. An Islanders defenseman has scored a goal in each of the last five games.
After that, Nabokov and Markstrom took turns outdoing the other. Markstrom withstood a period-long barrage by the Islanders in the first, when New York enjoyed a 14-4 advantage in shots, before the Panthers peppered Nabokov with seven shots in the first four minutes of the second. The Islanders ended the period with seven unanswered shots in the final seven minutes but couldn't extend the lead.
Nabokov made nine saves in the third as the Islanders finally hung on to a third period lead. Entering Sunday, the Islanders had been outscored 12-1 in the third period of their last four games, including 9-0 in the first three games of the homestand.
It wasn't easy for the Islanders, though. They had to kill a penalty early in the period and Nabokov made a handful of nifty stops, including a kick save of a shot by Peter Mueller with about 12 minutes to play. He also got a stick on Quinton Howden's shot and deflected it just out of the goal mouth with about eight minutes left.
NOTES: Entering play Sunday, the only other teams in the NHL with losing records at home were Winnipeg and Carolina, each of whom were 7-8-0. ... The Islanders scratched defensemen Radek Martinek and Joe Finley and winger Eric Boulton, while the Panthers scratched wingers Eric Selleck and Jack Skille and defenseman Erik Gudbranson. ... The Islanders have outscored the opposition 25-23 in the first period this season but have a 15-8 advantage in their last 15 games dating back to Feb. 23. ... With Tampa Bay firing head coach Guy Boucher on Sunday, the Panthers' Kevin Dineen is tied with Winnipeg's Claude Noel as the longest-tenured head coach in the Southeast Division -- at a mere 115 games each. Carolina's Kirk Muller was named to the position 21 games into last season while Adam Oates is in his first season behind the bench for Washington.