With an empty net goal from Michael Grabner with just 1:06 left to play, the Islanders defeated the Calgary Flames 5-2 on Monday night at Scotiabank Saddledome. The Islanders have now won three straight games and have posted a 7-1-1 in their last seven.
“Things are starting to pay off,” Islanders center John Tavares said. “We’re really finding our chemistry and we’re outworking other teams.”
His two power play goals made a huge impact in the result of the game.
“We only had a couple opportunities, but we were able to capitalize,” Tavares said. “It’s huge, especially because those are two goals that obviously made a big difference in the game.”
There were only two penalties called on the Flames, but the Islanders top line took full advantage and Tavares had three points before the end of the first period (the first time he has done so in his career), boosting him to a team leading 27 points.
“Our power play was good,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “Johnny (Tavares) was excellent. That whole line moved the puck around and got pucks to the net.”
Tavares scored his first power play goal, at 3:37 to take a 1-0 lead and his second at 11:35 to bring the Islanders ahead 3-1. With those goals, the Islanders have now scored four (of four possible) power play goals in their last two games.
“He has tremendous hands and it was a beautiful goal on the backhand, but it was a nice shot too,” Capuano said. “Quick hands on the shot as well.”
But Tavares also had an assist on Matt Moulson’s first goal, which gave the Islanders a 2-0 lead at 8:29 of the first period. Moulson scored his second goal just 3:06 into the second period when he redirected a puck from a Travis Hamonic slap shot from the point, giving the Islanders a 4-1 lead.
David Moss, of the Flames, also scored two goals. His first closed the score differential 2-1 at 11:37 of the first period. His second goal, coming at 13:22 of the second period, closed the gap 4-2.
After the Islanders traded Dwayne Roloson to the Tampa Bay Lightning on New Years Day, goaltender Nathan Lawson was recalled from the Sound Tigers. Rick DiPietro started between the pipes, but he suffered an adductor strain while making a save at 5:40 of the second period and Lawson was called in to relieve him.
Jay Bouwmeester #4 of the Calgary Flames skates against Mark Eaton #4, Nathan Lawson #52 and Milan Jurcina #27 of the New York Islanders on January 03, 2011 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
Before leaving the game, DiPietro made 13 saves through 25:33 of play. Despite the circumstances, Lawson, a Calgary native, was extremely excited to make the appearance in front of his home crowd. He was able to keep the win for DiPietro, making 28 saves in front of his friends and family through the last 34:20 of play.
“It was a dream come true,” Lawson said about playing a game in Calgary. “It means a lot. When I was going on the ice, he (DiPietro) consciously stopped and told me ‘you can do this.’ I felt good in there. I felt comfortable. The defense played great in front of me. Every chance they have, they’re blocking shots and clearing rebounds.”
Lawson added, “I definitely heard (my family and friends). And I knew where they were sitting so after the game it was great to see them jumping around.”
Isles center Frans Nielsen suffered a groin injury. Both DiPietro and Nielsen will be reevaluated on Tuesday. Without knowing the severity of DiPietro’s injury, Lawson could potentially be seeing a lot more ice time. He has the full team’s support.
“Lawson has proved himself that he can play at this level,” Tavares said. “We have a lot of confidence in him.”