Ekman-Larsson scores in OT, lifts Panthers past Isles
After Stolarz made a save in the extra period and sent the puck up the ice to Evan Rodrigues to start a Panthers rush the other way, Ekman-Larsson scored his ninth of the season for Florida’s season-high eighth straight road win.
“Good for him. He’s played incredibly hard for us and incredibly well,″ Panthers coach Paul Maurice said of the 32-year-old Ekman-Larsson, who signed with Florida as a free agent last summer. ”You like to spread those special overtime goals around a little bit. He earned it.”
Stolarz, who was credited with an assist on the winning goal, added: “I’m happy we came out with a win tonight. ... We understand our roles. Everyone is out there doing their jobs and good things happen.”
Kyle Palmieri and Simon Holmstrom had goals for the Islanders, who have lost three straight and seven of eight (1-5-2). The lone win during that stretch was in Patrick Roy's coaching debut with the team last Sunday. Semyon Varlamov finished with 34 saves.
Tkachuk scored his 16th on the power play at 5:59 of the third period to give Florida a 2-1 lead but Palmieri got his 13th to tie it for the Islanders with 1:29 remaining with Varlamov pulled for an extra skater.
“I really liked our game,'' Roy said. ”I liked the fact that tonight our team looked like a team playing a playoff hockey game. We're getting closer to where we want to be. When I look at the big picture, we played a very good game."
After a scoreless first period, Reinhart rifled his team-leading 37th goal past Varlamov on the power-play at 7:56 of the middle period. Reinhart scored in his eighth-straight road game and leads Florida with 62 points overall. Tkachuk is second with 51 points.
Reinhart had 20 power-play goals this season and extended his points streak to 13 games.
“The power-play came up big tonight,'' Reinhart said. “It probably wasn't the prettiest game to watch but those were two teams competing out there and not giving that much space. It came down to the wire and it was nice to get that extra point.”
Reinhart added that this team's road prowess is a product of hard work and focus. Florida is 17-7-2 away from home.
“On the road it's easy to mentally prepare to play a tight game," he said "When we play like that, we give ourselves opportunities to win.”
Holmstrom tied it for the Islanders with 3:31 remaining in the second with his 12th of the season — first since Jan. 2.
Florida goes into the All-Star break five points behind Boston with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 31-14-4. The Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Final last June where they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games.
The Islanders are 2-7-2 in their last 11 games and 20-17-12 overall heading into next week’s break. Despite three losses in four games since Roy replaced Lane Lambert on Jan. 20, the Islanders are 1-2-1 but have played with enough purpose to please their new coach.
Roy said that he's looking forward to using the week-plus break to get settled on Long Island before his team's return to the ice for the remaining 33 games of the regular season.
“I'm fresh. I'd be happy to play tomorrow or the next day. But it's nice to have the break for the players,'' he said. ”I'm going to use this time to be on Long Island and enjoy it and learn more about it ... All I'm saying is thank you to everyone. The fans have been very supportive, and I appreciate it."
Islanders: At Toronto on Feb. 5.
Panthers: Host Philadelphia on Feb. 6.
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