NEW YORK — Harri Sateri had a long road to the NHL, and he was all smiles after his first career victory.
The 28-year-old rookie stopped 32 shots to help the Florida Panthers beat the New York Islanders 4-1 Tuesday night.
Selected by San Jose in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL draft, the native of Finland spent four seasons in the minors before playing the last three years with Podolsk Vityaz of the KHL. He made his NHL debut Jan. 2 at Minnesota and got his fourth straight start against the Islanders with Roberto Luongo and James Reimer sidelined by lower-body injuries.
“It’s a dream come true,” Sateri said of his first win after coming in 0-3-0 with 4.59 goals-against average. “Finally I’m here.”
Mike Matheson, Evgenii Dadonov, Keith Yandle and Jonathan Huberdeau scored for Florida, which snapped a three-game skid and improved to 3-6-1 since closing December with five straight victories.
“We were on top of them all night, we didn’t allow a lot of outnumbered rushes,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “We tracked really well in the neutral zone, we squeezed well and we denied a lot of entries. I thought that was the difference.”
Adam Pelech scored for the Islanders, who have lost four of six. Jaroslav Halak, starting for the sixth straight game and 15th in the last 17, finished with 36 saves.
“We just weren’t executing that well and just weren’t as quick to pucks as we needed to be,” New York captain John Tavares said. “We just didn’t make it tough enough on their goaltender. We just didn’t have our best today.”
Florida was in control from the start. Yandle increased the lead to 3-0 on a long slap shot from the left point near the blue line at 4:14 of the third period. It was his fifth goal of the season.
Pelech, playing in his 100th career game, ended Sateri’s shutout bid 55 seconds later with his second.
Sateri had to make several nice stops down the stretch to preserve the two-goal lead, including two saves on Anders Lee with about 8 1/2 minutes to go, a wrist shot in front by Brock Nelson 90 seconds later, and a tip by Lee with 6 1/2 minutes left.
“He’s played well enough for us to win, we just haven’t been able to be good enough for him,” Yandle said. “I thought tonight he was awesome. We played well enough to get him a win.”
Huberdeau added his 17th with 1:11 remaining. It was his eighth goal and 16th point in the last 14 games.
The win moved the Panthers 10 points behind Philadelphia for the last wild card in the Eastern Conference. The New York Rangers, Islanders and Carolina are also in front of Florida, all bunched up within two points of the Flyers.
“No one’s waving the white flag here,” Boughner said. “I’m going to scrape every point we can. Tonight was a great start for that after the All-Star break.”
Matheson got Florida on the board 8:57 into the game with a hard wrist shot from the right point that ricocheted off the back of the crossbar and back out. Matheson’s fifth of the season was confirmed after a video review.
Dadonov made it 2-0 with 5:20 left in the second when he scored on a wraparound inside the right post. It was Dadonov’s fourth goal and ninth point in his last nine games.
NOTES: Former Islanders great John Tonelli took part in the ceremonial puck drop before the game. Tonelli was on the Islanders’ four Stanley Cup championship teams from 1980-83 and had 206 goals and 338 assists in seven seasons in New York. … Former Islanders coach Jack Capuano, now the associate coach under Boughner, returned to Brooklyn for the first time since he was fired Jan. 17, 2017. Capuano spent 6 1/2 seasons as head coach of the Islanders, leading them to their first postseason win since 1993 when they beat Florida in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. He received mild applause when he was announced during a brief tribute on the videoboard during a timeout in the first period. … Islanders C Casey Cizikas was activated off IR and returned after missing six games with an upper-body injury. He was the left wing on the third line with Brock Nelson and Alan Quine. … Tavares played in his 638th game, tying Derek King for 10th place on franchise list.
Panthers: At Buffalo on Thursday night
Islanders: At Toronto on Wednesday night.
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