UNIONDALE, NY— Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer called Nathan Horton a player who has the skills to move fans out of their seats.
Horton inspired Islanders fans to get on their feet Monday night, though the Panthers forward also had many at the Nassau Coliseum racing for the exits early in the third period as the Islanders surrendered a season-high goal total in a 7-1 drubbing to the Panthers.
Two goals in 55 seconds to start the final period turned a 3-1 deficit into a blowout as the Islanders lost for the fourth time in five games. Horton netted his second career hat trick as part of a four-point night.
“Every player needs to do some soul searching and go home and think about what happened,” Islanders defenseman Mark Streit said.
Jesse Joensuu provided the only highlight for the Islanders with his first goal of the season 4:17 into the second period. Joenssu’s goal just in front of the Florida net cut it to 2-1 before the Panthers scored five unanswered goals.
Three turnovers led to Florida goals, including giveaways by Streit, Bruno Gervais and rookie John Tavares. Dwayne Roloson was lifted after giving up Stephen Weiss’ goal 55 seconds into the third to make it 5-1 and Martin Biron gave up the final two goals to help the Panthers conclude a four-game road trip 2-2.
The Islanders now head into a crucial home-and-home series against the Rangers starting Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Both coach Scott Gordon and Roloson said the lure of two key Atlantic Division games against a local rival might have contributed to the malaise. Ten Florida players logged at least one point.
“I don’t think we had anybody going tonight,” Gordon said. “That was a collective effort and hopefully we can walk away from this game knowing we played our worst and we can be ready for the next two games against the Rangers.”
Roloson was beat on breakaways from Michal Repik 14:28 into the contest and Horton’s shorthanded one-on-one goal to make
it 3-1 at 12:40 of the second. Both breakaways came after Panthers players took the puck away from Islanders’ defenseman. Sandwiched around those goals was Horton’s first tally that deflected off Islanders defenseman Jack Hillen and past Roloson.
Florida goalie Thomas Vokoun experienced better luck and was also sharp when needed in making 20 saves. Vokoun has won 11 of 15 games against the Islanders in his career.
“I prepare the same for every game,” Vokoun said. “You have your teams where you do better and I really
don’t have the answer why is that. It’s not like I do something different when we play the Islanders.
“I’m just glad we got two points today and that’s the most important [thing].”