After ending their four-game losing streak, the Florida Panthers hope they can start to turn around their season. The New York Islanders, who had already considered themselves a resurgent team, look to recapture their momentum after a frustrating loss.
The teams meet on Saturday at Florida’s BankAtlantic Center.
The Panthers (7-9-4) are 6-3-1 at home and look to conclude a three-game homestand with consecutive wins after beating Montreal 5-1 on Thursday to end its longest losing streak of the season.
“We can’t be satisfied with where we are now,” center Olli Jokinen said after the Panthers won for just the second time in nine games. “We have to build on it.”
Jokinen broke out of his four-game goal-scoring drought by recording his second career hat trick. The Panthers’ success at home and struggles on the road might be connected to Jokinen’s performance.
Jokinen has nine goals and seven assists in 10 home games, but the center who played for the Islanders during the 1999-2000 season has just three assists in 10 road contests.
Veteran goalie Ed Belfour also provided a lift Thursday as he made 27 saves — thirteen of them in the first period.
“It’s good for our confidence, but it’s just one game,” said Jokinen, who scored twice in the second period and once in the third. “(Belfour) was the biggest reason we were up by one goal.”
If he gets the start, Belfour will look to continue his strong track record against the Islanders. The 40-year-old netminder is 14-5 with four ties and a 2.45 goals-against average against New York, although he has his last two meetings with the Islanders in shootouts.
The Islanders’ Rick DiPietro outdueled Belfour in the teams’ only meeting this season, a 4-3 New York win on Oct. 28 at Nassau Coliseum. Andy Hilbert converted in the 10th round of the shootout to win it for the Islanders.
DiPietro was brilliant Friday at Tampa Bay, but it wasn’t enough as the Islanders fell 3-2 in a shootout. DiPietro stopped 36 of 38 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, but allowed the shootout’s only goal Tampa Bay’s Dmitry Afanasenkov in the seventh round.
DiPietro had won five of his previous six starts.
“It was a good character point,” Islanders (8-6-3) center Mike Sillinger said. “Ricky played a fantastic game. It was kind of sad that he got the loss. I don’t think he deserved that.”
Although the Islanders rallied from a two-goal deficit to force the shootout, first-year coach Ted Nolan fumed after New York did not have a power-play opportunity for the first time since Jan. 27, 2004.
“We didn’t get any calls our way,” Nolan said. “But to fight back from 2-0, especially against a team like (Tampa Bay), you have to be happy about that.”
DiPietro is 5-3 with a 2.75 GAA in nine starts against Florida, but he might get Saturday off to rest. Backup Mike Dunham, who has not played since Nov. 6, is 6-6 with two ties and a 1.90 GAA in 14 career starts versus the Panthers.