Sitting in his stall after delivering the game-winning overtime goal, John Tavares offered a simple answer for the Islanders' recent success.
What separates this team from the same one that went 21 games with only one win earlier this season?
“We’re handling adversity much better now,” he said.
The Islanders displayed that ability to overcome at several crucial points throughout yesterday’s 4-3 overtime win over Colorado at Pepsi Center, first rattling off three straight power-play goals in response to an early 2-goal deficit and then snapping a 3-3 draw in overtime after Colorado tied the game with four seconds left in regulation.
“Our guys, they battled,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “That’s a good sign in the belief we have in our team.”
Beyond a near-perfect power-play and a pristine penalty-kiling effort, the Islanders also received mighty contributions from Bridgeport call-up Jeremy Colliton and 20-year-old rookie goaltender Kevin Poulin.
Colliton, who was called up Friday to replace injured center Frans Nielsen, led the teams with two goals in his first NHL game of the season with the Islanders.
Tallying a power-play goal at 5:52 of the first period, Colliton scored his first NHL goal in almost five years; his last one came on April 15, 2006 in a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Playing in front of his parents for the first time in his NHL career, the 25-year-old Blackie, Alberta native added his second power-play goal of the game to build off Blake Comeau’s first-period equalizer and give the Islanders a 3-2 lead at 3:17.
“It means a lot,” said Colliton, who spent last year in the Swedish Elite League after several seasons with the Islanders minor-league affiliate. “It’s exciting to get the opportunity, first of all. But I got put in that position and it’s nice to actually do something.”
After surrendering a pair of goals in the opening 1:47 of his first NHL start, 20-year-old rookie Kevin Poulin made 34 saves to secure his first ever win.
Following that first-period hiccup, Poulin’s only other blemish was the game-tying goal given up to Milan Hejduk, whose backhander careened off his shoulder with four seconds in regulation.
“That was why I was a little more disappointed about that one, because I almost had it,” Poulin said.
Poulin held on, however, as the Islanders perservered for their fourth win in five games.
“It means everything to me,” Poulin said of his first NHL win. “That’s why you play hockey.”
Before Hejduk’s second goal of the game, Tavares had the chance to seal the game with an empty-net goal but couldn’t get a good handle on a loose puck with Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles trailing him closely from behind.
“That one was in my head when I got off the ice,” he said.
With a little over a minute left in overtime however, Tavares atoned for that missed opportunity, making a beautiful move to blow past defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and cut to the net before switching to his forehand for the clincher 3:52 into the period.
“It was nice to be able to make up for that one.”