Tavares had a hat trick and his second career five-point game to lead the Islanders to a 7-3 rout of the Dallas Stars at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Monday. The Islanders have won four of their past five games and are 7-4-2 since snapping their 10-game winless streak on Dec. 10.
However, the Islanders will play their next six games away from the Coliseum, starting Tuesday at Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have been idle since their 7-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday.
"It's just something to build on," Tavares said. "We're going to have a tough test [Tuesday], a team that is looking to bounce back after a few days off. We know we're going to have to be ready to play and we can't just dwell on this one and think it's going to be easy. We have to come with the right intensity, a great work ethic and play a smart road game. We have to be at the top of our game."
The Islanders were Monday after falling behind 2-0 in the first period on a goal by Jamie Benn off a turnover in front of the net and a seeing-eye shot through traffic by Erik Cole. New York responded by scoring four goals in the second period. It was the first time the Islanders scored that many times in a period since Jan. 24, 2013, and the first time they did it at home since Nov. 19, 2011.
Brian Strait made it 5-3 with his second goal of the season 84 seconds into the third period and Tavares capped the scoring with two more power-play goals to complete his hat trick. His previous five-point game came in his rookie season on March 16, 2010. He had four points on two goals and two assists Dec. 31 against the Boston Bruins.
"He's unbelievable," said Islanders rookie Ryan Strome, who got New York on the board Monday with his first NHL goal. "He puts the team on his back. I think the third period you really saw how good he wanted be. He wanted that hat trick and it shows how dominating he can be. If I can learn one thing out of the 100 things he does it's going to make me successful."
The Islanders were 3-for-6 on the power play and outshot the Stars 43-23. Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen made 36 saves.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff called the loss "embarrassing."
"That's probably the most disappointing [game] of the whole year," Ruff said. "We were outskated. We couldn't win 1-on-1 battles. They basically looked how we usually look. Their legs were better. Their energy level was better. Their puck management was better. That might have been our worst game of the year.
"It was a team giveaway."
There was some bad news for New York; starting goalie Evgeni Nabokov had to leave the game with a lower-body injury with 7:06 left in the first period. Nabokov did not return and Islanders coach Jack Capuano said he did not have an update on the goalie after the game. He also wasn't sure if Nabokov would be traveling to Toronto with the club.
Nabokov was placed on injured reserve and the Islanders recalled Anders Nilsson of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on an emergency loan.
Kevin Poulin came in and gave up a goal on the first shot he faced, but settled in and made 13 saves.
"I thought he responded really well," Capuano said.
The Stars, on the other hand, did not despite getting defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Trevor Daley back in the lineup. Gonchar missed the past six games with a concussion and Daley missed 14 in a row with an ankle injury.
Dallas had a 2-0 lead after the first period, but was outshot 14-10 and lost 11 of 19 faceoffs. The Islanders felt good about the way they played in the first period and were able to haunt the Stars in the second by ramping up their intensity and getting goals from Strome, Tavares and Regin within the first 9:29 to take a 3-2 lead.
Dallas rookie Valeri Nichushkin tied the game with a power-play goal at 15:28, but the Stars had no answer for Nelson's rush up the ice that led to his game-winning goal. He knifed through the neutral zone with speed, cut to the middle, made a move on Alex Goligoski to get some room and fired a quick, blocker-side shot from between the hash marks that beat Lehtonen with 28 seconds left in the period.
"For me it started in the second period with the one-on-one battles, the 50-50 pucks; we didn't win those battles," Ruff said. "I think the thing that I noticed was Daley looked the freshest of everybody and he's the guy who hasn't been playing. You factor where our team has been at with sickness and everything, and maybe we need a couple of days to recover because there hasn't been a game where we looked this slow, moved the puck and not been able to catch guys from behind."
The Islanders had everybody contributing; 12 of their 18 skaters finished with at least one point and 17 had at least one shot on goal. The only player not to register a shot was Calvin de Haan, but he had two assists.
New York won 63 percent of the faceoffs (45 for 72) and forced the Stars into 15 credited giveaways.
"Everybody fed off the energy, every line," Tavares said. "That's what makes for a successful team. We need to carry that over."
|Jamie Benn (15) ASST: NONE|
1 - 0 DAL
|Erik Cole (11) ASST: Alex Chiasson (14), Rich Peverley (15)|
2 - 0 DAL
|PPG - Ryan Strome (1) ASST: Thomas Vanek (20), John Tavares (30)|
2 - 1 DAL
|John Tavares (18) ASST: Thomas Vanek (21)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Peter Regin (2) ASST: Josh Bailey (10), Thomas Hickey (9)|
3 - 2 NYI
|PPG - Valeri Nichushkin (9) ASST: Rich Peverley (16), Ray Whitney (12)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Brock Nelson (4) ASST: Casey Cizikas (5), Calvin de Haan (1)|
4 - 3 NYI
|Brian Strait (2) ASST: John Tavares (31), Calvin de Haan (2)|
5 - 3 NYI
|PPG - John Tavares (19) ASST: Frans Nielsen (18), Andrew MacDonald (18)|
6 - 3 NYI
|PPG - John Tavares (20) ASST: Andrew MacDonald (19), Casey Cizikas (6)|
7 - 3 NYI
|Thomas Vanek Hooking against Cody Eakin|
|Antoine Roussel Cross checking against Casey Cizikas|
|Casey Cizikas Holding against Erik Cole|
|Ryan Garbutt Holding against Brock Nelson|
|Thomas Vanek Roughing against Jamie Benn|
|Jamie Benn Roughing against Thomas Vanek|
|Thomas Vanek Roughing against Jamie Benn|
|Casey Cizikas Interference on goalkeeper against Kari Lehtonen|
|Ray Whitney Hooking against Frans Nielsen|
|Alex Chiasson Slashing against Andrew MacDonald|
|Ryan Garbutt Hi-sticking against Travis Hamonic|