John Tavares’ fourth career hat trick and Matt Moulson’s four point night led the Islanders to a 5-1 win Saturday against the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum. Evgeni Nabokov made 30 saves in the victory, the Islanders’ second in a row.
Following the game, Head Coach Jack Capuano praised the play of his top trio of Tavares, Moulson and Brad Boyes.
“Your best players are going to be your best players,” Capuano said. “I thought that tonight that line really executed well. Power play, 5-on-5 – they just made smart plays and executed real well tonight.”
After 36:45 of scoreless hockey, the Islanders opened up a 3-0 lead in a matter of 2:20 late in the second period.
The Islanders finally solved Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg at the 16:46 mark of the second period when Tavares scored to make the game 1-0. Brad Boyes’ shot from the right side was stopped, but Tavares swooped in and swatted the rebound home, giving him goals in five consecutive games.
A minute later, Tavares scored a similar goal on the power play, this time converting a rebound off Moulson’s shot. The centerman went through four Devils penalty killers to bat the puck out of midair and score.
“The first goal was a big one for us, but the most positive thing was that we kept going at them,” Tavares said. “We didn’t just get one and sit back, thinking things will get easier. We went after them, drew a couple penalties, and capitalized.”
Moulson added to the lead with 0:54 remaining in the middle frame with his seventh tally of the season. Just 12 seconds into a power play, the winger took a feed from Boyes in the slot and quickly put it upstairs, making the score 3-0. Tavares earned the secondary assist on the play.
The Devils got one back midway through the third period on a Marek Zidlicky power play goal. The defenseman’s slap shot from the right point was the only shot out of 31 to evade Nabokov, who earned second star honors.
The strike gave New Jersey life for a few minutes, but Tavares put the game out of reach with his third marker of the evening at 14:45 to make the score 4-1. Mark Streit and Moulson earned the assists on the power play goal.
With the hat trick, Tavares has 11 goals in his last 10 games tying him for the league lead; and ranks sixth with 20 points. Moulson finished the contest with a goal and three assists.
“He comes to the rink every day to get better,” Capuano said of Tavares. “He’s prepared, he’s focused, he’s committed, he’s willing to do all the little things and intangibles to be one of the best players in the league and the world. That’s just where he’s at right now.”
The Islanders power play went 3-for-5 in the game, taking eight shots in 4:07. On the man advantage, they have gone 7-for-11 over the past three contests, and rank second in the NHL at 23.1% this season.
“It’s something you embrace,” Moulson said of the power play. “You enjoy having that opportunity and pressure on you to get out there and produce, and we take pride in that and contributing to wins. It’s a good feeling.”
With less than a minute remaining in the game, Michael Grabner scored his sixth of the season after Hedberg was caught out of position. Coming into the game, Johan had a goals-against average of 0.65 (two goals allowed in three games), including a shutout against the Islanders on Feb. 3. He allowed five goals on 33 shots Saturday.
With wins in their last two games, the Islanders move up four spots in the Eastern Conference standings to 10th, just two points behind the 8th place New York Rangers. The team has a matinee on Monday, Feb. 18 when the Philadelphia Flyers make their first visit of the season to Nassau Coliseum. The game starts at 1:00 p.m.
Notes: The Islanders penalty kill went 4-for-5 … The Islanders won the faceoff battle 34-20, led by Casey Cizikas (15-for-19) … With four points, Moulson ties his single-game career-high originally set on Dec. 3, 2011 at Dallas (four goals)… Moulson’s has also skated to a 3g-4a-7pts stat-line in the last 3 games … Lubomir Visnovsky, who earned an assist on Tavares’ second goal, has now been on the ice for 10 of the 14 Islanders goals since making his debut Feb. 9 vs. Buffalo … Andrew MacDonald led all skaters with six blocked shots.
New York Islanders
New Jersey Devils
12 Alexei Ponikarovsky - 19 Travis Zajac - 17 Ilya Kovalchuk
26 Patrik Elias - 14 Adam Henrique - 23 David Clarkson
20 Ryan Carter - 11 Stephen Gionta - 18 Steve Bernier
22 Krystopher Barch - 16 Jacob Josefson - 9 Bobby Butler
24 Bryce Salvador - 28 Anton Volchenkov
6 Andy Greene - 5 Adam Larsson
7 Henrik Tallinder - 2 Marek Zidlicky
1 Johan Hedberg
30 Martin Brodeur