RALEIGH, N.C -- That John Tavares is doing it all offensively for the Islanders is a bit of a double-edged sword. His wizardry was on display again last night as he assisted on all three Islanders goals, including a beautifully threaded pass through traffic to Kyle Okposo for the tying score with 1:30 left in regulation.
The Islanders went on to grab two points with a 4-3 shootout win over the Hurricanes -- P.A. Parenteau and Frans Nielsen scored for the Isles in the shootout, and the clinching moment was Carolina's Chad LaRose flipping a backhand wide of Evgeni Nabokov on the last shot -- and they had Tavares, primarily, to thank for even getting one point out of a haphazard game.
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"He's the leader of this team, and everybody should follow his steps," said Nabokov, who was a solid second star for the Isles in winning his and the team's third straight, making 37 saves. "His preparation, his work ethic, his desire to win every battle . . . It's great to see a young guy like that work so hard and show so much passion for the game."
The downside, if there is one, is that the Isles are getting next to nothing offensively everywhere else on their roster. When Tavares wasn't on the ice against the reeling Hurricanes, the Islanders were either fumbling good chances away or losing one-on-one battles all over the ice.
Brian Rolston lost one of those, to LaRose late in the third, and LaRose pulled away from the corner to slide a shot under Nabokov with 4:14 left in the third to snap a 2-2 tie. The Hurricanes controlled play at five-on-five through that moment, with the Isles converting both of their power-play opportunities to even be close in the third.
But in those final minutes, Tavares found his extra gear. He already had set up Matt Moulson with a pretty touch pass for Moulson's team-leading 18th goal 3:40 into the first, then got the second assist on Nielsen's power-play score at 4:50 of the third that tied it.
With under two minutes to play, Tavares beat Justin Faulk to a puck behind the opposing net -- which is fast becoming Tavares' living room, the way it once was for Wayne Gretzky -- curled around the boards and fired a no-look pass that Okposo slammed behind Cam Ward.
"It wasn't pretty, but we found a way," said Tavares, who was so dominant that Jack Capuano used his timeout with 1:06 left to give Tavares, Okposo and Moulson some rest so they could be on the ice for a chance at winning it in regulation. After Moulson kept the puck in the zone, Tavares nearly won it, popping a bouncing puck over the net.
"We needed the two points more than we needed just one," Tavares said. "It was a good win for us even though we weren't at our best."
Tavares has been at his best the last three games in which he has two goals and five assists -- seven points on 10 Islander goals. Capuano was hesitant to praise his star too much, because he's clearly more concerned with the lack of scoring from the other lines.
"We've got to find a way," he said. "We have to find a way to get some other guys going."
For now, it's Tavares and whoever's on the ice with him.