"I just came in here and saw it," Tavares said. "Boys are playing
Tavares' play was certainly worthy of his teammates' impromptu
handiwork Monday night. The New York Islanders center and captain
collected his fifth career hat trick and tied a career high with
five points as the Islanders stormed back from an early two-goal
deficit to rout the Dallas Stars 7-3 at Nassau Coliseum.
"A lot of people dream of those nights," Islanders coach Jack
Capuano said. "Anytime '91' has a night like that, it's nice to win
the hockey game."
Tavares scored the game-tying goal in the second — a period in
which the Islanders scored a season-high four goals — before adding
the final two goals in New York's three-goal third period. The hat
trick was Tavares' first since Feb. 16, 2013.
He also assisted on a second-period goal by center Ryan Strome — the first goal of Strome's career — as well as a third-period goal
by defenseman Brian Strait to collect his first five-point game
since March 16, 2010.
The outburst was cathartic for Tavares, who entered Monday with four
goals on 34 shots in his past nine games.
"Lot of guys did great things for me to get some opportunities,"
Tavares said. "I'm just happy I was able to capitalize on them,
especially as many (opportunities) as I've had lately."
The Islanders hope they are in the midst of creating an unlikely
playoff opportunity. Thanks to a 5-14-3 funk from Nov. 5 through
Dec. 17, New York (15-22-7) has the fourth-fewest points in the
However, the Islanders won four of their past five — and they came
back from multi-goal deficits in three of those victories — to move
within nine points of the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia
Flyers, who are tied for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
"We've got to keep building, and we've got to string together a few
wins now," said Islanders center Brock Nelson, who gave New York the
lead for good with a goal in the final minute of the second period.
"We dug ourselves a hole, so whenever we have a good win like this,
we've got to stay focused and not relax. Stay on the gas pedal."
The Islanders, who embarked after the game on a season-long six-game
road trip, likely will have to begin mounting a playoff run without
starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who suffered a lower-body injury
in the first period and was placed on injured reserve after the
game. Nabokov missed 12 games earlier this season, a stretch in
which the Islanders went 1-9-2.
Backup goaltender Kevin Poulin allowed a goal on the first shot he
faced but stopped 13 of the final 14 shots as he won in relief of
Nabokov for the second time this season. He was also the winning
goaltender in the Islanders' 5-4 shootout victory over the Detroit
Red Wings on Nov. 16.
[to top of second column]
Dallas left wingers Jamie Benn and Erik Cole scored in the
first period before Strome, Tavares and center Peter Regin
scored in the first 10 minutes of the second period as the
Islanders climbed back from a 2-0 deficit.
The Stars tied it on a power-play goal by right winger Valeri
Nichushkin with 4:32 left in the second, but Nelson put the
Islanders ahead when he maneuvered the puck through Stars
defensemen Alex Goligoski and Brenden Dillon and fired it past
goaltender Kari Lehtonen with 28 seconds remaining.
The four-goal period was the first for the Islanders since Jan.
24, 2013. Multi-goal comebacks are becoming far more routine:
The Islanders came back from a 3-0 deficit in a 5-4 win over the
Minnesota Wild on Dec. 29 and were down 3-1 before beating
Boston 5-3 on Dec. 31.
"Probably giving up more goals than we'd like," Tavares said
with a laugh. "But I think we're just doing a good job of
sticking with it. Obviously, early in the year, five, six weeks
ago (in) a lot of those games (they) got a little bit more down
on ourselves and got a little frustrated. Now it just seems like
we stay with it a little better and have the right mindset, the
right focus. We know we're doing some good things."
Lehtonen made 36 saves for the Stars (20-15-7), who lost their
third game in a row and their four in five (1-3-1). Dallas
remains two points behind Minnesota and the Phoenix Coyotes in
the race for the Western Conference's final wild-card spot.
"Their legs were better," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of the
Islanders. "Their energy level was better. Their puck management
was better. That might have been our worst game of the year."
NOTES: The Islanders replaced G Evgeni Nabokov on the active
roster by recalling G Anders Nilsson from AHL Bridgeport. ...
Among the Islanders' scratches was RW Kyle Okposo, whose wife
gave birth to the couple's first child on Monday afternoon. LW
Eric Boulton and D Matt Carkner also were healthy scratches for
New York. ... Islanders C Josh Bailey returned to the lineup
after missing four games with an upper-body injury. ... The
Islanders' upcoming road trip is their longest since a
seven-game trip from Nov 11-23, 2009. ... The Stars scratched D
Cameron Gaunce, C Dustin Jeffrey and D Aaron Rome. Gaunce and
Jeffrey were healthy scratches, while Rome was out due to an
upper-body injury suffered Saturday against the Detroit Red
Wings. ... Prior to the game, Dallas activated D Trevor Daley
(ankle) and D Sergei Gonchar (concussion) off injured reserve.
Gonchar missed six games, while Daley was sidelined for 14
games. ... The visit to Long Island was the first for the Stars
since Dec. 15, 2011, and only their fifth since play resumed
following the 2004-05 lockout.
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.