New York Islanders' Matt Moulson looks to pass during the...

New York Islanders' Matt Moulson looks to pass during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago. (Dec. 2, 2011) Credit: AP

After the way the Islanders coughed up Tuesday's game to the Caps, turning a 4-1 lead into a 5-4 shootout loss that added another frustrating defeat to this season's stretch run, there was little to celebrate.

But still, in the Islanders' dressing room, two freshly minted 30-goal scorers sat. John Tavares hit 30 for the first time in his three-year career; Matt Moulson hit 30 for the third time in his three Islanders seasons, a feat that hasn't been accomplished by an Islander since Ziggy Palffy had 30-plus from 1995-98.

"It has a lot more to do with the guys I play with," Moulson said with typical humility. "Johnny's one of the best players in the game, and P.A. [Parenteau] and Okie [Kyle Okposo] have been great, too. I'm not exactly producing goals on my own."

But the 28-year-old Moulson is producing, and that's not an easy feat on an Islanders team that has the third-fewest goals (164) in the NHL this season. He has already established a reputation as Tavares' sidekick, a garbage-disposal unit who finishes off his talented center's plays.

Doing it three seasons in a row, though, justifies the three-year, $9.4-million contract he signed last summer.

"My dream was always to get to the NHL and maybe score 20 goals," he said. "I guess I've changed my focus. Now, the goals are nice, it's great to get to 30, but it's all about winning games for me."

That has been the major goal that's eluded Moulson and his mates. They go into tonight's game with the Flyers 11 points out of eighth, with just a dozen games to go; if Moulson could somehow get to 50 goals in these last 12 games, maybe his team would have a shot at the postseason for the first time since he arrived as a lowly regarded free agent out of the Kings organization.

His 30th wasn't exactly a thing of beauty: a slap shot that winged past Tavares' stick, off the end boards, over the net, into Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth's bread basket, then back into the net.

Plus, it was initially awarded to Tavares, who relayed to the official scorers that he never touched the puck.

That made it a typical Moulson goal: ugly, but effective. If only the games had cleaner, more positive endings.

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