After a slow start, John Tavares is showing why the New York Islanders were so eager to take him with the first pick in the 2009 Entry Draft.
The second-year center continued his scoring surge, scoring a natural hat trick in just 5:46 of the second period to lead the Islanders to a 5-3 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum.
"Getting a natural hat trick is always nice," Tavares said. "We did a lot of things right."
No one has been doing more things right than Tavares, who has 10 goals and 19 points in New York's last 15 games -- a stretch in while the Islanders are 9-4-2 after suffering through 20 losses in a span of 21 games.
"John has always had a consistent effort," said goalie Rick DiPietro, who made 40 saves in his return after missing five games with an adductor injury. "He's learning how to gear up for an 82-game season. It's not an easy thing to do, especially for a 20-year old."
fter Thomas Vanek's 5-on-3 power-play goal 17 seconds into the second period put Buffalo ahead, Tavares tied it by beating Ryan Miller from the slot at 7:50, then knocked in Matt Moulson's rebound for a power-play goal at 10:34 and swatted home another rebound at 13:36 for his team-high 18th goal.
"Johnny's been working real hard," interim coach Jack Capuano said of the No. 1 pick in the 2009 Entry Draft. "Hard work pays dividends."
Blake Comeau scored for the third game in a row at 15:25 for a 4-1 lead.
"We gave them every opportunity to capitalize in the second," said Miller, who finished with 32 saves.
Tyler Ennis fired a rebound off the end boards behind DiPietro at 5:45 of the third period for a power-play goal that made it 4-2, and the Sabres dominated play for most of the rest of the game. They had a chance to get closer when Josh Bailey was called for hooking with 4:41 remaining, only to allow Michael Grabner's shorthanded goal on a wrister from near the left faceoff dot with 3:08 left.
DiPietro allowed a late goal by Jochen Hecht but looked sharp after missing 12 days with the injury.
"He was good. He saw the puck well. He controlled his rebounds," Capuano said of DiPietro. "I thought his lateral movement was really good. They ramped it up in the third, we couldn’t handle it, and Ricky came up big for us."
Hurricanes 6, Lightning 4 | HIGHLIGHTS
The improving Lightning moved within a point of the final playoff berth in the East as Eric Staal scored on a shorthanded breakaway and Jussi Jokinen had a pair of goals against the visiting Lightning.
Staal, who was beaten by goalie Dwayne Roloson on an earlier breakaway bid while shorthanded, didn't miss his second chance, taking a pass from Eric Cole and sliding the puck through Roloson's legs and barely over the goal line at 12:51 of the second period for a 5-3 lead.
"I was licking my chops getting another chance at that," Staal said. "Obviously, a shorthanded breakaway, you want to bear down on that and finish it."
Simon Gagne's second goal of the game at 11:05 of the third period cut the lead to one goal, but Jokinen hit the empty net in the final seconds to help the 'Canes improve to 7-2-2 in their last 11.
Tampa Bay lost for the fourth time in six games and the second time in two nights after an emotional 3-0 win against Washington on Wednesday.
"Our play is too up and down, you know," Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis said. "Execution, smarts, attention to details -- we're all over the map right now. We're there some nights. We're completely not other nights. You can see, the nights we're not, what kind of results we get."
The Lightning have allowed five or more goals 12 times this season. Twice, they were able to win those high-scoring games, but not Saturday, thanks to an 0-for-5 showing on the power play.
"I thought our penalty kill was outstanding," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "Special teams (were) the difference in the game for us."
Coyotes 6, Ducks 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Ray Whitney scored twice and added an assist as the Coyotes stayed unbeaten in regulation this month.
For NHL.com's complete game story, click here.
Panthers 3, Devils 2 (OT) | HIGHLIGHTS
Florida made it three wins in a row when second-year defenseman Dmitry Kulikov beat Martin Brodeur with a high wrist shot 3:36 into overtime.
Dennis Wideman and Evgeny Dadonov scored power-play goals for Florida, which entered with the league's worst (10.3 percent) power-play unit. Scott Clemmensen, Brodeur's former backup, made his second straight start and stopped 33 of 35 shots.
"We talked about having a fresh start the second half of the season with the power play and with some other areas of our game, and not dragging the first-half baggage into the second half," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said.
Clemmensen improved to 3-0 lifetime against his former team and has a 1.96 goals-against average against New Jersey.
"It's always nice to win, a lot of those guys are friends of mine. It's kind of like beating a big brother," Clemmensen said.
New Jersey opened the scoring on a goal by Nick Palmieri 5:01 into the game. Dadonov tied it at 15:07 with a high wrister past Brodeur's stick. Wideman put the Panthers ahead 2:15 into the second period, but David Clarkson forced OT when he jammed the puck behind Clemmensen at 8:47 of the third.
The Devils got three of four points in their two-game swing through Florida and looked a lot better than the team that has fallen to the bottom of the NHL standings.
"Two good teams, and it's good to get three of four points," said coach Jacques Lemaire, whose team won 5-2 at Tampa Bay on Friday night.
Flames 2, Maple Leafs 1 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS
Former Leaf Matt Stajan scored against his old team and Olli Jokinen scored the winner in the shootout as Calgary won at Toronto.
Stajan, part of the deal that sent Dion Phaneuf to the Leafs nearly a year ago, broke a scoreless tie when he beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere with less than seven minutes left in regulation. It was only his third goal of the season.
"One of the best feelings I've had - relief, excitement," Stajan said. "It's been a tough year, and to see that one go in and make a difference in the game, it feels really good for sure.
"To say it's just another win, I'd be lying. It's a special win for me."
Miikka Kiprusoff, criticized by coach Brent Sutter in recent weeks, was 12.4 seconds away from a shutout before Mikhail Grabovski tied the game with Giguere on the bench for a sixth attacker. But Tyler Bozak hit the post on a shorthanded breakaway in OT and Jokinen's goal in the fourth round of the shootout gave the Flames the win.
Still, one point was better than nothing for the Leafs.
"It's a big point for our team," Phaneuf said. "We're not happy about not getting the two, but it showed a lot of character and showed a lot about our group the way we've been playing the last couple weeks. We've been in every hockey game and we've battled right to the end."
Stars 6, Thrashers 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Kari Lehtonen stopped 29 of 30 shots in his first game against his old team and Trevor Daley scored two power-play goals as the Stars routed the struggling Thrashers in Dallas.
"It was the most exciting game for me this year, lots of emotions," said Lehtonen, who was traded by Atlanta to Dallas late last season. "I played my own game, the guys came up big there in the third period and the last parts of the second. It was a good win."
James Neal also scored twice for the Stars, who scored six times on 27 shots in support of their goaltender.
"He wanted to come in and have a big game tonight and he did just that," Neal said. "Anytime you play a former team, you do anything you can to get the win, especially for your goalie."
Andrew Ladd, one of the numerous new faces in Atlanta since Lehtonen's departure, got the Thrashers' lone goal.
"I was kind of surprised when I looked at their lineup and there's eight players that I used to play with, so that's quite a changeover in players," Lehtonen said. "It's still - they felt like the enemy for me, so I guess now I'm a Dallas Star for sure."
Thrashers goalie Chris Mason left the game in the first period because of an undisclosed lower-body injury. Mason was hit by teammate Chris Thorburn, who was sliding after blocking a shot. He remained in the game briefly and wanted to stay, but was in pain and was replaced by Ondrej Pavelec at 7:48.
"That's courage, because he was hurt. He didn't want to come out. He's a great kid," coach Craig Ramsay said.
Adam Burish's goal at 13:58 of the second period broke a 1-1 tie, and after Daley scored again late in the period, Dallas scored three more goals in the final nine minutes to turn the game into a blowout.
Kings 5, Oilers 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
The Kings went retro on Rogie Vachon Legends Night -- including the old purple-and-gold jerseys -- and beat Edmonton to salvage the finale of an eight-game homestand behind a pair of goals by Jarret Stoll.
Stoll broke a 2-2 tie at 7:08 of the second period when he took a pass from Dustin Brown and beat Devan Dubnyk with a slap shot. Drew Doughty added an insurance goal with 17:16 remaining, and Stoll hit the empty net for the final margin.
The Kings finished 2-6-0 on their longest homestand of the season, and defenseman Matt Greene said he's not unhappy to be heading out of town.
"Sometimes getting on the road is great. I know we've got a long road trip coming up here, but at the same time, we've just to play games. We've got to play hockey," he said. "That's the best thing, to get us out of this funk that we've been in. Get a game like this, and follow it up with a back-to-back here, and keep playing. That's what we've got to do, keep playing good hockey and get on a roll and see what happens."
Oilers coach Tom Renney said his team started off OK but paid the price for turning over the puck too often.
"We had a decent start and we felt after the first period that we might be able to come after this team and get ourselves a win," he said. Too many turnovers allowed L.A. to feel a little more comfortable about their game."
Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano scored for the Oilers, who went 0-for-5 on the power play and are now 0-for-33 since Dec. 23.
Sharks 4, Blues 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Dany Heatley and the Sharks both snapped out of slumps -- Heatley scored twice and San Jose ended a six-game losing streak by beating the Blues for their first win since Jan. 1.
"I'm happy for the guys because they applied themselves from minute one," coach Todd McLellan said. "It wasn't easy and it wasn't comfortable. I want them to remember how hard it is to win. This can't be just a one night thing when we stop a losing streak, it has to be an every night thing. "
San Jose had not earned a point in six games, its longest such since the 1995-96 season. The Sharks also had lost six straight home games for their longest drought in nearly 14 years. Both streaks came to an after Heatley broke a tie with his 17th goal of the season 4:35 into the third period. He was standing alone in the slot when he deflected Marc-Edouard Vlasic's point shot past Jaroslav Halak to give San Jose a 3-2 lead. It was his second goal of the night after he had just one in his previous 14 games.
Jamie McGinn added an insurance goal when he knocked in a rebound of Scott Nichol's shot for his first of the season.
"When (McGinn) scored there was a lot of excitement for him as an individual," McLellan said. "Obviously it was a big goal in the game but I think that speaks volumes on what he means to his teammates."
B.J. Crombeen and Erik Johnson scored for the Blues, who lost for the sixth time in seven games.
"Our overall game was so-so," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "There were times that we didn't get the pucks in or the pucks out. This caused us some havoc. I didn't think they played their best defense."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report