ANAHEIM, Calif. - After all the ups and downs of John Tavares' rookie season, Tuesday night was a welcome sight.
With every post and crossbar the 19-year-old had hit, every point-blank attempt thwarted by an opposing goaltender, Tavares' coaches and teammates shared in his grimaces of frustration.
So when Tavares delivered his finest game, an outstanding five-point effort in the Islanders' 5-2 win over Vancouver, there was nothing but relief.
"To me it was inevitable," coach Scott Gordon said. "You can't get that many good opportunities without being able to cash in eventually."
In addition to two goals and three assists, Tavares drew penalties, blocked shots and won battles along the boards.
"Absolutely, he blocked shots, won battles on knees and his compete level on the puck is so much better," Gordon said. "Even though his offensive production hasn't been what everyone thinks it should be, it's the little things that I'm more pleased about than any point production he can get."
Developing into an all-around player, not just an offensive threat, was something Tavares focused on when his scoring tapered off. "It's nice to contribute in all areas of the game," he said. "I thought I didn't just play well offensively but in my own end as well."
Given all the backbreaking expectations surrounding the No. 1 overall pick, Tavares' teammates and coaches believe he was appropriately rewarded.
"It's great. He's worked so hard all year," goalie Dwayne Roloson said. "He had a lot of pressure on him throughout the year. Even when he wasn't scoring he was doing the little things. It just goes to show you what type of character he has."
"We had a discussion before the Olympic break about letting it go and not taking every shift and missed opportunity so hard," Gordon said. "He's done a great job of that."