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In tense drive for playoff spot, Islanders' Tavares tries to stay calm

John Tavares skates during a game against the

John Tavares skates during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Coliseum. (Feb. 18, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

TAMPA, Fla. -- John Tavares and his Islanders teammates have had some frustrations boil over this season. Not about games like Sunday's 6-1 loss to the Penguins, when the Isles were never in it, but more in games like the one a week ago against the Rangers.

Tavares, who has had more comments for officials this season than in any of his three previous seasons, was one of the few Islanders who didn't say anything to refs Mike Hasenfratz and Brian Pochmara after the 2-1 overtime loss in which the Islanders did not get a power play while the Rangers won on an OT power-play goal.

"I think sometimes you need to relax and not focus on that," said Tavares, who has drawn his share of penalties this season. "I wanted to go talk to them after the call in overtime, but I was a little too heated myself and I kind of avoided the situation knowing there was a lot of frustration and a different view on the calls."

Assistant coach Brent Thompson did have more than a few words for the officials and received a two-game suspension from the NHL. He'll return to the bench Thursday for the Islanders' game with the Lightning, the team's first action since Sunday's ugly loss dropped the Isles back below .500.

As it happens, the Islanders entered Wednesday's games as one of eight teams with at least 100 power-play chances and they are plus-9 in power plays earned vs. power plays given.

But the frustrations grow as the team's expectations grow -- Tavares understands there's more pressure on him and his teammates to succeed, given that they are past the halfway mark of this shortened season in better position in the East than they've been in his NHL career.

"You have to focus on the game and we've tried to stress that," he said. "When things don't go our way sometimes, when it's two or three games in a row, it can definitely build up and go a little over the top."

New York Sports