The weight of high expectations can be heavy, especially for a No. 1 draft pick. But John Tavares proved last night that patience can pay off - especially when it comes to evaluating 19-year-olds.
He scored his 16th goal of the season as the Islanders snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over Toronto at Nassau Coliseum.
"Sometimes you don't go through [the droughts] as much in juniors," Tavares said. "But you play so much, you just have to get ready for the next game."
Tavares had been in the midst of a scoring drought since netting a pair of goals in a loss to Toronto on Dec. 9. And it took him seven games to rediscover his stroke.
"I think for John, he has such a high expectation of production . . . to be able to produce on a consistent basis," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "When you make that jump from junior college to pro, you feel like that's going to continue, and when you have the dry spells it's probably harder on guys like him."
Less than two minutes after Trent Hunter's goal put the Isles ahead, 1-0, 10:47 into the second period, Blake Comeau connected with Tavares for the deciding goal for the Islanders (14-17-7).
Comeau whipped the puck in between Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson and the net - straight to Taveres, who wristed it in. "Comeau made a great play there to me," Tavares said. "Hats off to him, he made it pretty easy for me. I just got to the net. For sure, as an offensive guy you want to contribute and some of the best things I do is what I do in the offensive zone and it's always nice to be rewarded."
The near-deafening horn reverberated blared again as Islanders fans jumped to their feet in celebration.
Home advantage appeared to be a luxury the Islanders - losers of four in a row at the Coliseum - could no longer afford. But last night, the Isles played like a team desperate to win. And they did.
The Islanders outshot the Maple Leafs, 7-5 in the first period. But they shots never translated into goals. They had a chance to strike with 13 seconds left in the period, as Comeau fed Jon Sim on a breakaway, but Gustavsson laid out for the save.
It took Toronto (13-17-8), who leads the NHL in shots on goal (34.9), 41:56 to score its goal. After Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson (26 saves) dropped to his knees to make a save, left wing Niklas Hagman redirected the rebound behind the goalie's left foot and into the net 1:56 into the third period to cut the Isles' lead to 2-1.
Comeau was awarded a goal with 34.9 seconds left in the game after Toronto's Francois Beauchemin committed a penalty as Comeau tried to score on an open goal on a breakaway.
Next up for the Islanders are the Rangers. "We have a couple days here to sit back and enjoy our families," Roloson said, "but at the same time remember that we played a good game before the break and be ready to go on the 26th.">>For breaking news, follow Newsday on Twitter