This was a game the Islanders needed, clearly. They had to snap a four-game losing streak, but they also had to play the sort of game that gives them life.
Led by John Tavares' line and backed up by another strong performance from goalie Kevin Poulin, it was a top-to-bottom effort in the Isles' 3-1 win over the Predators at the Coliseum Tuesday night.
"It was a good game for us, getting the two points. It was good to see everything clicking," said Tavares, who had a goal and assist and threw a healthy scare into his team and the 12,108 in the building when he tumbled heavily into the boards midway through the third period.
Tavares got to the bench slowly, took a power-play shift and then went down the runway to the Isles' dressing room to try and stretch out his hip. He returned for the final 5:30.
"It's a little sore right now," he said. "Hopefully it's nothing too bad. I expect to be fine with some treatment."
The Isles jumped on the struggling Predators, who came in having lost consecutive 5-0 decisions and had Marek Mazanec making his first career start in goal. The Isles held a 21-3 edge in shots attempted at the halfway mark of the first, rolling four lines effectively and skating in transition well.
On their third power play of the first period, the Isles finally struck. Frans Nielsen poked a loose puck out to the slot where Tavares got it, alone. He beat Mazanec for his eighth goal of the season at 15:30, giving the Isles the lead.
Just 1:53 later, Nielsen won a rare draw (the Isles were just 22 of 60 on faceoffs) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard circled in the Nashville zone, then snapped off a sharp-angle shot that squeezed between the post and Mazanec for a much-needed, two-goal lead through one period.
"We had a tough road trip and we've got this little homestand here, so we wanted to get out strong," said Bouchard, who has goals in two straight. "Guys were on the puck, skating, checking."
And when that didn't succeed, Poulin was there. Making consecutive starts for just the second time in his career, Poulin came within 5:30 of his first NHL shutout but still had 31 saves for the win, aided by better defensive-zone play from his teammates than either Isles goaltender had gotten in a while.
Kyle Okposo one-timed Tavares' pass, set up by a neat drop pass from Brock Nelson, to make it 3-0 at 7:07 of the second. The Isles were done scoring but not done working, with Casey Cizikas throwing himself in front of a couple big slap shots later in the second to get the crowd's approval.
"Whether things are going well like they did tonight or not, we have to stick with our plan," Tavares said. "It's important to build off this."
Notes & quotes: Thomas Vanek (upper body) worked out and reported feeling better, meaning he could resume skating Wednesday and possibly play Thursday night against the Kings. Vanek missed his second straight game after being injured in the first minute of Saturday's 4-2 loss in Columbus . . . Cal Clutterbuck returned after missing three games with an upper-body injury.