Islanders fans hope John Tavares will be an NHL star someday. From the looks of his regular-season debut last night, that is entirely possible.
Tavares had a goal and an assist in his team's season opener, but current NHL superstar Sidney Crosby wound up spoiling the night for Tavares and the Islanders as the Penguins earned a 4-3 shootout victory at Nassau Coliseum.
Crosby and Kris Letang scored on Dwayne Roloson in the shootout, and Tavares and Jeff Tambellini came up short.
"It was a hell of a game and it was too bad we couldn't get the win, but that's what type of hockey we're going to play all year," Tavares said.
Although their hopes were dashed for one night, the fans likely were comforted by the superior play of Tavares. After months of waiting to see the Islanders' first overall pick show his skills, the sellout crowd at the Coliseum got a glimpse of what the 19-year-old can do.
With the score tied at 1 in the second period, Tavares pounced on a loose puck down low and backhanded a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury at 7:09, eliciting an eruption of boisterous "John Tavares!" chants. He pumped his fist and jumped in the air to celebrate the milestone achievement with his teammates along the boards.
"It was awesome," Tavares said. "For it to come in my first game against that team, in front of my family, it was special for a lot of reasons."
Coach Scott Gordon was pleased with Tavares' contributions, which had the crowd surging from the introductions to the shootout.
"In his first professional game, besides scoring the game-winner, I'm not sure we could ask for much more," Gordon said.
He also commended his team for the overall effort against a tough, talented and resilient Penguins team.
"Absolutely," Gordon said when asked if he liked what he saw. "In our first game, I think the thing to take away is it was an exciting game and the guys competed hard."
After dictating play in the first two periods, the Islanders found themselves clutching to survive in the third as the Penguins scored two goals and outshot the Islanders 18-5.
Not the easiest introduction to the NHL for the highly touted Tavares, but a good start to his rookie season.
"I thought we played a really hard game, we got in their face, really played our style and played true Islander hockey," he said.
"Definitely disappointed with the results, but they are the Stanley Cup champs and there are a lot of positives we can take from it."