Matt Moulson was typically self-effacing after Saturday night's win over the Devils. As the media crowded around John Tavares' stall to talk about Tavares' hat trick, Moulson sat a few spots down, unbothered by reporters.
"I didn't really have to do too much," Moulson said after his one-goal, three-assist night.
Everyone around the league knows that Moulson wouldn't be where he is without Tavares. But this relationship is a two-way street: Tavares, tied for second in the NHL with 11 goals, might not be the player he's become without his constant companion, Moulson, clearing space and parking himself in front of the net to deposit rebounds and passes.
"I really didn't know how skilled he was," said Brad Boyes, who delivered one of those centering passes for Moulson's goal in the final minute of the second period Saturday night. "That wasn't a great pass, into his skates, and he kicked it right to his stick and got off a great shot. That takes a lot of skill. He's not just hacking and whacking in front there."
It can't be all ugly goals for the 29-year-old Moulson, who has 104 goals since the start of the 2009-10 season, when he paired with an 18-year-old Tavares. That's tied for ninth in the NHL during that span, behind marquee names such as Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and Marian Gaborik.
"He's not the flashiest player, and he's always the first to tell you that," Tavares said Sunday after the Islanders practiced in Syosset to prepare for Monday's matinee against the Flyers at the Coliseum. "But he gets overlooked all the time. He does a lot of things no one sees."
Most of them involve going to the net when defenders are trying to figure out a way to stop Tavares. Moulson did just that on the three-on-two rush that led to Tavares' first goal, caving the Devils' defenders in to leave room for Tavares to jam in a rebound.
"Sometimes you play with highly skilled guys who love to ad-lib; they're all over the place," Boyes said. "You know where Matt's going to be. I get the puck, look in front and nine times out of 10, he's there and he's going to get a good chance."
Notes & quotes: Jack Capuano said defenseman Matt Carkner (lower body) still needs a couple more days of practice before he's ready to return, so expect Joe Finley to remain in the lineup at least Monday and likely Tuesday in Ottawa . . . Evgeni Nabokov is likely to make his third straight start in goal Monday, but with five games in the next seven days, Rick DiPietro will get a start soon.