- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) - The New York Islanders were even with the Florida Panthers in the first period, and coach Jack Capuano liked nothing about it.

He let his players know it, and they responded with an impressive final 40 minutes.

Josh Bailey had a goal and assist, and the Islanders kept up their strong finish with a 4-2 victory over the Panthers on Tuesday night.

“We got off to a real slow start,” Capuano said.

New York, on the verge of elimination in the Eastern Conference playoff race after qualifying for the postseason a year ago, quickly bounced back from Quinton Howden’s short-handed goal less than two minutes in and sent the Panthers to their fourth straight loss.

Travis Hamonic, Matt Martin and Mike Halmo also scored, Colin McDonald had two assists, and Evgeni Nabokov made 20 saves for the Islanders, 4-0-1 in their past five.

“Guys have done a good job keeping each other up, keeping the spirits up even though it can be tough,” Bailey said. “When you think about last year down the stretch and how much fun it was, it’s difficult. We definitely don’t want to find ourselves here ever again, but you’ve still got a job to do.”

Florida, which won two earlier meetings this season, is one of three NHL teams with fewer points than New York.

“No one is happy with where we are,” Martin said. “It’s a rough year and a year we’re not proud of, but to be going down the stretch with some wins and playing good hockey definitely feels a little bit better.”

Brandon Pirri closed the scoring for Florida, making it 4-2 with his 11th goal - on a power play - with 5.9 seconds left in the game. Scott Clemmensen stopped 36 shots for Florida, which lost 6-3 at New Jersey on Monday.

“We let them capitalize on too many chances,” Panthers center Nick Bjugstad said. “We have to stay positive and try to end the season with better efforts.”

The action started quickly for the Panthers, who scored short-handed for the second straight night - the fourth time that has happened in team history.

On his first NHL shift, defenseman Jonathan Racine was called for interference when he leveled forward Cal Clutterbuck 42 seconds in.

Florida then struck first.

Howden knocked the puck free at the left point and raced the other way alone. He easily stayed in front of Frans Nielsen and beat Nabokov at 1:50.

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