- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Panthers scored early and then played enough defense to hang on.

Scottie Upshall scored a short-handed goal and had an assist to lead the Panthers over the New York Islanders 4-2 on Tuesday night.

Nick Bjugstad, Drew Shore and Aleksander Barkov also scored for the Panthers. Tim Thomas stopped 31 shots, and Ed Jovanovski had two assists.

“We had chances tonight early in the game and they went in,” Florida coach Peter Horachek said.

Thomas Vanek and Colin McDonald scored for the Islanders. Kevin Poulin made 22 saves.

The win was the first for Florida over the Islanders in five games, dating to the 2011-2012 season. The Islanders lost for the first time in five games and had a seven-game road winning streak snapped.

Florida took a 4-0 lead on the short-handed goal by Upshall in the second.

He took control of the puck as it slid away from New York’s Andrew MacDonald at the blue line and skated in on Poulin, beating him on the stick side at 15:54 for his second short-handed goal of the season and first goal since Nov. 30 against Pittsburgh.

“Anytime you get a flip up to a D-man who has trouble with bouncing pucks, you’ve just got to get on him,” Upshall said. “It was one of those plays that I was lucky to poke it past him and stick with it and make a move.”

New York had come from behind in five straight road games to pull out a win, but a 4-0 deficit proved too much to overcome.

“We talked about it before tonight’s game, that we wanted a better start,” McDonald said. “Obviously, we didn’t do that and got ourselves in a deeper hole than in the last couple games. Going down four, it’s just too tough to come back.”

The Islanders scored with 31 seconds left in the second. Matt Martin passed from behind the net in front to McDonald, who poked the puck past Thomas to make it 4-1.

New York closed to 4-2 on Vanek’s goal in the third. Vanek took a pass from Frans Nielsen behind the net and beat Thomas at 2:38.

Thomas faced 15 shots in the third period but was able to keep the Islanders in check after Vanek’s goal.

“It’s rare in the NHL to have that kind of cushion,” Thomas said. “It was nice, but at the same time it’s a challenge, too, because you don’t want to let the other team back into it. They were right on the brink of coming back there after they got the second goal.”

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