HOW IT HAPPENED
Ilya Sorokin made 43 saves, and Julian Gauthier's first goal of the season was the game-winner as the New York Islanders held off the Florida Panthers 4-3 in Sunrise on Saturday night. Bo Horvat and Brock Nelson each had two assists for the Isles (10-7-6), who also had goals from Anders Lee, Pierre Engvall, and Simon Holmstrom to improve to 5-1-1 over their last seven games. Carter Verhaeghe had a goal and an assist for Florida (14-8-2). Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart also scored, while Anthony Stolarz made 22 saves in the loss.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Free-agent signing Julian Gauthier had primarily been an afterthought this season until Matt Martin's injury provided him an opportunity to skate on the fourth line, and he's making a case for more ice time regardless of Martin's availability.
Gauthier picked up an assist on Simon Holmstrom's seventh goal of the season and later used his plus speed to draw a penalty and send the Islanders to the power-play. Then, in the third period, Gauthier showed off the wrist shot on display during training camp when he took Bo Horvat's face-off win and sent a shot over the shoulder of Panthers goaltender Anthony Stolarz.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Mathew Barzal has seven points over his last two games but missed Saturday night's game due to illness. Hudson Fasching drew back into the lineup, playing on the fourth line, while Gauthier started on a line with Holmstrom and JG Pageau. With two days off before the next game, Barzal will hopefully be ready to pick up where he left off.
Sorokin had a solid game, and the Isles always do rely heavily on their goaltending, but Saturday was the 17th time in 23 games their opponents outshot them. After allowing 43 shots on goal to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Panthers bested that by putting 46 on net. The Isles keep defying the odds by finding ways to pick up points and win games despite the high shot totals allowed.
STATS OF THE GAME
Per NHL PR, Anders Lee scored his 54th career game-opening goal – the third most in Islanders history behind Bryan Trottier (81) and Mike Bossy (64). Lee is up to five goals on the season and has scored in three of the last four games.
SOCIAL MEDIA MOMENT OF THE GAME
For about 30 minutes, Islanders fans were holding their collective breath. Brock Nelson left the game with 5:12 to play in the second period with what appears to be a left knee injury.
Nelson was battling Florida Panthers forward Evan Rodrigues for positioning in front of the crease when his left knee buckled under him. Fans speculated that a serious knee injury had been suffered as it appeared to be a non-contact injury. Nelson took the ice for the start of the third period, and Isles Nation breathed a sigh of relief.
The Islanders start a six-game home stand on Tuesday night when they host the San Jose Sharks at UBS Arena. Face-off from Elmont, NY is at 7:30 PM EST.