Score Strip

Islanders 5, Panthers 2

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Michael Grabner scored two goals and the New York Islanders capped their home schedule in impressive fashion by routing the Florida Panthers 5-2 in front of a near-capacity crowd of 15,922 on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.

Matt Moulson, Mark Streit and Radek Martinek also scored for the Islanders, who won for the ninth time in their past 12 games (9-1-2) and ensured they would end the night no worse than seventh in the Eastern Conference.

The Islanders (22-16-5), who entered the game one point ahead of the Rangers, would move to sixth if Ottawa lost to Carolina.

The Islanders are pursuing their first playoff berth since the 2006-07 season, and the raucous crowd began chanting "We want playoffs!" after Grabner's second goal extended the lead to 5-1 just 3:33 into the second period.

If the Islanders are to finally clinch that long-awaited playoff berth, they'll have to do it during a season-ending five-game road trip -- the longest at the end of a season in franchise history -- that begins Thursday in Toronto.

The Islanders are 12-5-2 away from Nassau Coliseum. Only Pittsburgh and Chicago -- the current top seeds in the East and the West -- have fewer road losses than the Islanders.

Home wasn't nearly as kind to the Islanders for most of the season, but they went 5-0-1 in their final six games to finish 10-11-3 at the Coliseum, which they will vacate no later than the end of the 2014-15 season for Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

Goalie Evgeni Nabokov had 26 saves for the Islanders. He allowed two or fewer goals for the ninth time in his past 10 starts.

Dmitry Kulikov and Marcel Goc scored for the Panthers, who lost their third in a row and remained last in the NHL with 32 points. Florida (13-23-6) became the first Eastern Conference team to be eliminated from playoff contention last Saturday and has missed the playoffs in 11 of the last 12 seasons.

The Islanders scored three times in the first -- their first three-goal period since March 9 -- and twice in the second to take their biggest lead in a home game since a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 16.

After that, the only objective for the Islanders was surviving an increasingly chippy game.

In one second-period sequence, Josh Bailey was leveled by Mike Weaver and John Tavares took a backhanded stick to the helmet from Tyson Strachan.

Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky responded by barreling into Scottie Upshall in the Islanders' goal mouth, but Upshall's momentum carried him into Nabokov, who banged his head against the posts and remained down for a few minutes but stayed in the game.

Islanders center Casey Cizikas did not return after suffering an upper-body injury earlier in the game when he deflected a puck with his left arm.

Moulson began the rout 8:01 into the game when a crossing pass from Thomas Hickey threaded a crowd of players and ticked off Moulson's stick.

The Islanders scored twice on the same power play -- including once in a five-on-three -- later in the period to extend the lead to 3-0. Streit scored on a slap shot with 13 seconds left in the two-man advantage.

A little less than three minutes later, Andrew MacDonald hit Grabner in stride with a long clearing pass. Grabner eluded Brian Campbell and TJ Brennan, both of whom were trying to poke the puck free in pursuit, and beat Jacob Markstrom from point-blank range.

The Islanders put the game away when Radek Martinek and Grabner scored 14 seconds apart early in the second. That chased Markstrom, who allowed five goals on just 18 shots.

NOTES: A moment of silence was held before the game in memory of the victims of Monday's Boston Marathon bombing. ... The Islanders scratched defensemen Matt Carkner, Joe Finley and Brian Strait, centers Anders Lee and Marty Reasoner and winger Eric Boulton. The Panthers scratched defenseman Filip Kuba and center Peter Mueller. Mueller traveled home to Florida to be with his wife, who is expecting a baby. ... The Islanders are the first NHL team this season to complete their home schedule. Columbus and Nashville have each played 23 home games. ... The Panthers' lone playoff appearance in the last 12 years came last season, when they snapped an NHL-record 10-year playoff drought by winning the Southeast Division.
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