PITTSBURGH - Saying that the Islanders flourish when John Tavares plays well is brutally obvious, and only half of the story. Coach Jack Capuano pointed out that there is a vice versa involved.
Tavares was held without a shot by the Penguins in their 5-0 Game 1 win here Wednesday night. He was bumped and harassed and defended with every step, which you would expect. "It's part of the playoffs," the center said after practice Thursday.
But another part of the playoffs is that a team has to adjust to the other side's adjustments, and the Islanders plan to do that for Game 2 Friday night, knowing they need to help Tavares the way he helps them.
"I don't think it's a surprise to John that they were hard on the puck and he didn't get many chances," Capuano said. "We always talk about playing as a unit of five. You can talk about John and how they played him, but the surrounding support from our club needs to be better for John to be better."
Linemate Matt Moulson said, "There was too much puck-watching out there. I think all of us, individually, can play a lot better."
Technically speaking, Tavares might not have been shotless. "I thought I had a good opportunity in the second period with Kyle [Okposo] and Josh [Bailey] out there," Tavares said, adding that he couldn't tell if the defenseman blocked it or the goalie saved it. Either way, it was a minor point, and a moot one.
"I'm not worried about that. I've just got to keep working hard, keep competing and find my ways to get shots and getting opportunities for some of my teammates," he said.
Getting hit is just a day at the office for someone who has been a high-profile big scorer since he was a child. The pounding just reached a higher level in his first Stanley Cup playoff game.
"You want to be physical on them and have that take its toll on them, and I think we did a reasonable job of that," said Brenden Morrow, who was acquired by the Penguins for that role and who had some big hits on the Islanders' top player.
The way to combat that, Tavares said, is to hit them as hard as they hit you. "I have to be physical myself, use my body, win my battles and create time and space," he said. "That's part of the game. Sometimes that gets the blood going a little bit."
Nabby's helmet done. Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov showed the damaged helmet that was struck by a blast from Jarome Iginla on Wednesday night. "It's probably done," he said of the equipment. "I don't want to let Iggy know, though, he got a good shot."