NEWARK - In the space of a half-hour, John Tavares took the Islanders from "Oh, no!" to "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
Jaroslav Halak's misplay behind his own net gave the Devils a one-goal lead with 12:37 to play in the third period. But Tavares put his team on his back, scoring the tying goal with 6:13 left in the third and winning the game with his magnificent solo effort 3:05 into overtime.
The much-needed 3-2 win ended the Islanders' losing streak at two games and sent them on to Columbus for Saturday night's game with a bit more confidence than they'd had.
"More than anybody, he doesn't like to lose games," Jack Capuano said of his captain, who also had an assist on Josh Bailey's goal. "We came off the road trip 2-2, which isn't too bad. But for this team, it's not good enough."
Tavares pounced on defenseman Adam Larsson in OT and easily stole the puck from him in the corner to the left of Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid. Tavares circled toward the net and didn't draw much pressure, so he faced down Kinkaid and snapped a shot past the Farmingville product.
Tavares punctuated his winner with the "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chant that has become incredibly popular after goals and wins at Nassau Coliseum this season, much to the delight of the large swath of Isles fans who traveled to the Prudential Center for Friday night's game.
"Maybe we're not absolutely just taking it to teams lately, but I thought we played well tonight," Tavares said. "We had a couple mistakes on their goals that are easy fixes."
Given the slew of mistakes that led to goals in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Oilers and Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Canucks, Friday night's errors might not have been easily overlooked had Tavares not rescued the Isles.
Midway through the second period, Kyle Okposo handed his stick to Travis Hamonic, whose stick had broken, and Okposo immediately caught a high shot in the stomach. Okposo dropped the puck and tried to kick it to safety but Travis Zajac pulled it away, started a give-and-go with Patrik Elias and finished it with a wrist shot through a screen and past Halak to put the Devils up 1-0 after two periods.
Bailey tipped home Calvin de Haan's point shot at 1:02 of the third to tie it at 1-1, but Halak's attempt to slow a dump-in later turned into an unpleasant adventure. The puck slowed as it neared Halak and the trapezoid behind his net. He couldn't move to play it for fear of getting a penalty, so Adam Henrique easily took the puck from in front of Halak and fed Scott Gomez in front for a goal into an unguarded net.
"Sometimes you get some unlucky bounces," said Halak, who had 21 saves. "I was just hoping the guys would score."
It was The Guy, Tavares. As a power play was expiring, Okposo rifled a shot from the high slot that went over the net and off the end boards, settling down at Tavares' feet. He quickly threw a shot at the back of Kinkaid's legs, banking it home to tie the score.
Then came OT, Tavares' team-leading 19th goal and his first three-point game since the season opener on Oct. 10. Tavares has six goals in the last seven games and the rest of his team has scored 17 in that span.
"He's world-class. What else can you say?" de Haan said. "We rely on him for offense and he brought it when we needed it tonight."
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