Kevin Poulin stopped 32 shots to lead the Islanders to a 3-1 victory Tuesday night in their first home game after going 0-4-0 on a week-long road trip.
"We played well, especially for the first two periods," said center Frans Nielsen, who set up first-period goals by John Tavares and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. "We got back to playing our game. We got the puck in deep and spent a lot of time in their end. I like the way we rebounded after the road trip."
Poulin, starting in consecutive games for the first time this season, wasn't tested much early but looked sharp in the final two periods. He has a 1.75 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in his past four starts.
“Right now I’m playing with confidence,” the 23-year-old said. “I’ve been playing a lot lately the past week and I feel more comfortable out there. I am seeing the puck pretty well."
Islanders coach Jack Capuano wasn't willing to discuss whether Poulin might be supplanting struggling Evgeni Nabokov as the starting goaltender. New York is home for games against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday and the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
"Kevin had a good game tonight. He's played well, I like the way he competes," Capuano said. "We'll evaluate it, and it's tough to say right now. We'll see who goes Thursday night against L.A."
The Predators, playing the sixth of a seven-game road trip, came to New York after back-to-back 5-0 losses to the Winnipeg Jets and New Jersey Devils. They trailed 3-0 before Patric Hornqvist ended Poulin's shutout bid with 5:30 left in regulation, snapping a streak of 13 unanswered goals and a scoring drought of 174:48.
Nashville's trip ends Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We were slow to the puck all night and they did a better job winning the 1-on-1 battles," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We're going through a tough time. We have to tighten up and put together better efforts."
It was the Islanders' first win against the Predators in regulation since a 5-2 victory in Nashville on April 11, 2002, and their first at the Coliseum since beating the Predators 2-1 on Nov. 7, 2000. Nashville had been 8-0-2 in its past 10 meetings against the Islanders, including a 3-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena on Oct. 12.
"We played a solid game start to finish," Capuano said. "We were disciplined and our goaltender played very well. This was a total team effort."
Tavares' two points gave him 22, one behind League leaders Sidney Crosby of the Penguins and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He appeared to be shaken up midway through the third period after losing an edge and crashing into the boards. He went briefly to the Islanders' dressing room, but returned.
"Our best players have to be our best players, and tonight they were," Capuano said.
The Islanders (7-9-3) controlled play throughout the first 20 minutes, outshooting Nashville 16-10 and attempting 34 shots to 16 for the Predators (8-8-2). More important, they put two of them in the net to take their first lead in a week.
Nashville killed two penalties, but the Islanders capitalized on their third power-play chance. With David Legwand in the box for elbowing, Nielsen found Tavares all alone in the slot for a one-timer past rookie goaltender Marek Mazanec at 15:30. It was Tavares' eighth of the season and gave the Islanders their first lead since they were ahead of the Washington Capitals 1-0 early in the second period last Tuesday.
Bouchard gave the Islanders a two-goal lead at 17:23 with a goal Mazanec would like to have back. Bouchard moved down to the bottom of the right circle and took a bad-angled shot that went between Mazanec and the post for his fourth goal of the season and second in as many games.
Nashville pressed Poulin early in the second period but couldn't beat him, and the Islanders made it 3-0 at 7:07 on an unselfish play by Tavares. Brock Nelson's pass found the Islanders captain in the slot, but instead of shooting he drew the defense and goaltender to him before sliding a pass to Kyle Okposo for a one-timer from the left circle that Mazanec had no chance to stop. It was Okposo's sixth goal of the season, two more than he had in all of 2012-13. It was also Okposo's 20th point, which leads all American players this season.
"He played the percentages, I guess," Okposo said of Tavares. "I wasn't that surprised; a little bit."
The three-goal lead was the first for the Islanders since they beat the Phoenix Coyotes 6-1 on Oct. 8.
Hornqvist ended Poulin's bid for his first NHL shutout when he took a pass from Legwand and scored his sixth of the season.
Material from team media was used in this report.
|PPG - John Tavares (8) ASST: Frans Nielsen (11)|
1 - 0 NYI
|Pierre-Marc Bouchard (4) ASST: Frans Nielsen (12)|
2 - 0 NYI
|Kyle Okposo (6) ASST: John Tavares (14), Brock Nelson (4)|
3 - 0 NYI
|Patric Hornqvist (5) ASST: David Legwand (11), Shea Weber (4)|
3 - 1 NYI
|Rich Clune Holding against Aaron Ness|
|Rich Clune Fighting (maj) against Matt Martin|
|Matt Martin Fighting (maj) against Rich Clune|
|David Legwand Elbowing against Peter Regin|
|David Legwand Elbowing against Colin McDonald|
|Casey Cizikas Roughing against Patric Hornqvist|
|Shea Weber Hooking against John Tavares|
|Roman Josi Hooking against Brock Nelson|
|Aaron Ness Holding against Viktor Stalberg|