SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Islanders were mostly smothered during the first half of Friday night's game against the Panthers. Then, after a line tweak put Josh Bailey on the top line in his first game back from a broken hand, they sprung to life in the second.
The Islanders gave away a two-goal lead in the third, though, allowing the tying goal with 2:35 remaining before surviving an overtime onslaught from the Panthers.
Ultimately, the Isles got the two points they wanted with a 4-3 shootout win, buoyed by Jaroslav Halak's 35 saves plus two more in the shootout. But this fifth straight win didn't come without a few issues -- including four power plays for Florida in the third period and OT and a blown two-goal lead, something that happened with alarming regularity last season but hasn't been a chronic problem for this improved Islanders squad.
"That's a game we should've iced," said Ryan Strome, who gave the Isles a 2-1 lead off a home run pass from Thomas Hickey and took a possibly game-saving penalty in OT to prevent Jimmy Hayes from jamming a rebound under Halak. "We had chances up 3-1, we've got to finish it off. We let them back in."
Strome scored his second goal in as many games just 1:59 after Bailey forced a turnover that led to John Tavares' tying goal at 13:09 of the second. Halak preserved the one-goal lead with a ridiculous save, pinning a fluttering puck to the crossbar with the back of his mask in the closing minutes of the period.
Nikolay Kulemin, shifted off the top line to familiar territory with Mikhail Grabovski and Frans Nielsen, scored his second goal in as many games for a 3-1 lead. From his knees, he shoved a rebound under Roberto Luongo at 3:57 of the third.
The Islanders had their shutout streak snapped at 193:48 -- second longest in club history and 5:26 short of the 199:14 set in March-April 1998 -- by Hayes at 12:37 of the first, but they still were on track to keep an opposing offense quiet until Tavares took his second minor of the third, slashing Tomas Fleischmann's stick out of his hands with the Isles on a power play.
As Florida's fourth power play began, Brian Campbell cruised in off the point and beat Halak high to the glove side with 10:02 to go. "They got that goal and we gave them hope," Halak said.
Bailey took a slashing minor with 6:27 left, but the Isles killed that one off. They were unable to clear their own zone after an icing, though, and Panthers rookie Aaron Ekblad's point shot hit off Halak's glove and went in with 2:35 to play.
"It's just a lack of discipline," Jack Capuano said. "I thought the first one [on Tavares] was a borderline call, but we deserved every other one."
The Isles had another crack with their power play in the final 2:17 but could not break through. Halak had to rescue them in OT, making nine saves, including a couple on a late four-on-three Panthers power play.
"I just try to stay in the lanes, see the shots," said Halak, whose personal shutout streak had ended at 156:04 when Hayes scored the game's first goal..
Nielsen and Okposo scored in the shootout and Halak stopped Brad Boyes to send the Isles on to Tampa on Saturday night still streaking -- albeit a bit humbled by the way they got to five straight. "Up 3-1 in the third, you want to finish it," Halak said. "We had our chances too. We just need to relax at the end and be a little stronger."