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John Tavares' goal in shootout keeps Islanders undefeated

John Tavares #91 of the Islanders celebrates his

John Tavares #91 of the Islanders celebrates his game-winning shootout goal against the San Jose Sharks at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Islanders put forth their best 60-minute effort of the season Thursday night. So naturally it took 65 minutes plus a five-round shootout for them to remain perfect.

John Tavares converted in the fifth round of the shootout and Jaroslav Halak stopped Joe Thornton for a rousing 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks that got the Islanders to 4-0 for only the third time in their 43-year history.

That it came against a Sharks team that also was 3-0 -- and owned a bit more recent playoff pedigree -- made these two points a bit sweeter.

"It's important to learn how to win these games, play these kinds of games, because they're the most fun," said Tavares, who had two assists to give him nine points in four games. "You've just got to stay composed and stay focused on doing the things that bring you success."

For the Islanders, that was continuing to pour pressure and shots on the Sharks despite trailing 2-1 after two periods. San Jose grabbed the lead 9:14 into the second, but the Isles held a 28-11 shot edge through two periods despite losing Mikhail Grabovski to an upper-body injury after a big, legal hit by Sharks enforcer John Scott midway through the first period.

Word after the game was that Grabovski, who had to be helped to the dressing room, does not have a suspected concussion but will be looked at on Friday.

"It was basically just the next three guys on the bench over the boards. We didn't have lines," Frans Nielsen said. "But we played the whole rest of the first in their end."

Into the third, the Isles got a break when Brent Burns, who scored the Sharks' first goal and assisted on their second, broke his stick and tossed the puck into the San Jose bench for a delay-of-game penalty.

Nielsen and Tavares played give-and-go to gain the Sharks' zone with speed and space. Nielsen fed Kyle Okposo for a quick shot under Alex Stalock and the score was tied.

Just 2:41 later, Josh Bailey made a nifty play to grab a rebound with his glove out of midair, drop it, turn and snap a shot past Stalock to put the Islanders in front. Young Sharks star Tomas Hertl tied it just 2:38 after that, but the Isles didn't let up.

"We didn't let up the whole 60," Okposo said. "It didn't matter what the scoreboard said, we kept coming."

Stalock finished with 42 saves and Halak, who allowed three goals on 16 shots in regulation, came up big with seven saves in overtime as the Sharks pressed the attack for the first time all night.

The shootout might hold small meaning in the big picture, but the Isles and the 11,248 at the Coliseum definitely wanted the bonus point to keep this season-opening run going into Pittsburgh on Saturday.

With New Jersey losing to Washington Thursday night, the undefeated Islanders now sit atop the Metropolitan Division standings and are tied with once-beaten Montreal atop the Eastern Conference.

"We're not going to get too carried away. There's 78 games to go," Bailey said. "But it's another step in the right direction for sure."

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