John Tavares' hat trick leads Isles over Rangers
John Tavares says it quite simply: "It's good to produce. That's what I'm best at."
And Tavares produced another brilliant game Saturday night against the Rangers. His second straight four-point game, this one with a hat trick, produced the Islanders' third straight win, a 4-2 triumph over their rivals at a sold-out Nassau Coliseum that was pretty well split down the middle between fans of the two teams.
There was no doubting who was louder as the final horn sounded, though. Tavares completed his second career hat trick with an empty-net goal with 1:08 to play after his neat deflection of Mark Streit's shot 3:30 into the third broke a 2-2 tie.
"It's awesome to see," Travis Hamonic said. "Johnny works so hard and he does a lot of little things. It's great to see him be rewarded for it."
The Islanders have scored nine goals in their last two games, and Tavares has had a hand in eight of them. He has a league-high five goals and three assists. He had two power-play goals Saturday night and set up Matt Moulson's goal to open the scoring.
"When Johnny's going well, he makes the people around him better," Jack Capuano said. "All his goals have come from the hash marks in. The guys on our team should take a lesson from that."
Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 29 saves in his first NHL game in 17 months.
Tavares showed a little bit of everything from his skill set with his second goal.
After Dan Girardi went off for interference, giving the Islanders their seventh power play of the night -- they totaled 10 in their first three games -- Tavares won a faceoff from Brian Boyle and swept the puck back to the point. Streit moved into position and so did Tavares, who backed into the high slot and found some room. Streit wound up for what appeared to be a shot, but it was a slap shot-like pass; Tavares turned his stick and redirected it past Henrik Lundqvist from 30 feet out, putting the Isles in front.
That was the last answer in a game of "top this" between Tavares and Marian Gaborik, who was flying as much for the Rangers as Tavares was for his squad. Gaborik had a breakaway goal to tie the score at 1-1 at 6:23 of the second, given a free rush on Nabokov when Mark Eaton went for a change just as Marty Reasoner lost control of the puck at the Rangers' blue line.
Gaborik's speed also created a chance and a power play early in the third, but the Rangers had too much trouble staying out of the box, giving the Islanders eight power plays.
And there were some ugly minors taken by the Rangers. Ryan Callahan barreled into Nabokov on a scoring chance and Boyle was called for delay of game.
With so many chances, the Islanders finally capitalized, and Tavares was there again. Lundqvist stopped Streit's point shot, but Tavares flipped a backhand between Lundqvist's legs at 11:47 to give the Isles a 2-1 lead.
Brandon Prust tied the score with 1:34 remaining in the second as his wrap-around shot banked off Frans Nielsen's skate and in after the Isles had trouble with the Prust-Boyle-Ruslan Fedotenko forecheck.
Tavares helped get the Isles on the board 12:04 into the game, leading a rush that Moulson finished with a sneaky wrist shot through a screen.
"We've got a good thing going right now," said PA Parenteau, who had three assists to give him six. "Johnny's absolutely on fire and we're working hard to make things happen."