Sunrise, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Dan Ellis followed up a 25-save effort through regulation and overtime by stopping all three New York Islanders skaters in the shootout, helping lift the Florida Panthers to a much-needed 4-3 win.
Ellis came up big in the veteran's second start since being summoned from the minors due to recent injuries to goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya, as did Jonathan Huberdeau in an important game for the Panthers.
Huberdeau scored once in regulation and again during the shootout for Florida, which trails Boston by two points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Panthers also received goals from Erik Gudbranson and Nick Bjugstad.
New York managed just one point despite receiving a goal and two assists from captain John Tavares, who set up Josh Bailey's one-timer that tied the game at 3-3 with 7:12 left in the third period.
Michal Neuvirth, acquired from Buffalo at Monday's trade deadline, turned aside just 15-of-18 chances in his Islanders debut.
Ellis began the deciding phase by getting a piece of Frans Nielsen's backhand attempt before Huberdeau got Neuvirth out of position and jammed the puck past the netminder's stick to close out the first round.
"Instead of going right at it and shoot it I just tried a little spin," said Huberdeau. "I was thinking the goalie wasn't going to expect it and it worked."
Tavares and Bailey were then denied on their respective tries to hand the Panthers the critical two points.
"I thought we had some pretty good chances," said Tavares. "We were able to create some chances going through the zone and got a power-play goal, just weren't able to get the two points."
The Islanders never led at any stage of the contest, but battled back from one-goal deficits three times. Bailey drew them even once again by depositing a pass sent by Tavares from the left corner into the top right portion of the Florida net in the 53rd minute.
Huberdeau had given Florida a 3-2 edge just over three minutes earlier with a highlight-reel goal in which the young forward spun around a defender and fired a shot by Neuvirth's stick side.
After a somewhat slowly played opening period, the action picked up in the second. Tavares scored the first of the frame's three goals 4:39 in, with the All-Star center tying the game at 1-1 by beating Ellis all alone on a breakaway created when teammate Anders Lee forced a Florida turnover in the neutral zone
Bjugstad put the Panthers back ahead less than four minutes later with a successful backhand attempt set up by Jussi Jokinen's nifty no-look, behind- the-net give. The lead was short-lived, though, as the Islanders capitalized on a power play before the close of the period.
Just 24 seconds after Florida's Vincent Trocheck was sent off for high- sticking, Nick Leddy blasted the puck from the left point through the legs of a screened Ellis to knot the score at 2-2 with 4:23 remaining in the second.
Gudbranson accounted for the lone score of the first period on a shot from near the blue line that Neuvirth failed to pick up with 7:09 remaining in the stanza.
Tavares' three points gave him a league-leading 70 on the season ... Both Luongo and Montoya were injured in the Panthers' 3-2 loss to Toronto on Tuesday ... Florida defenseman Willie Mitchell returned from a 16-game absence caused by a lower-body injury, but rookie blueliner Aaron Ekblad missed his first game of the season due to illness ... Florida improved to 3-2-1 on a seven-game homestand that ends Thursday against Winnipeg ... The Panthers are now 7-10 in shootouts this season, while New York fell to 7-3.