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Johnny on the spot

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
John Tavares had yet another breakout night, scoring a hat trick and recording four-points, for the second consecutive game, to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers. Tavares now leads the Islanders with eight points on the season and five goals in two games.

“It’s nice to produce, it’s what I do best and I take a lot of pride in it,” Tavares said. “So it’s nice to come through.”

Tavares scores at 11:47 of the second period against the Rangers at the Nassau Coliseum on October 15, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Head Coach Jack Capuano called Tavares the team’s best player right now.

“If you just look where his points and his goals are coming from, there’s nothing on the perimeter,” Capuano said. “It’s all around the hash marks and guys from our team should learn from that. If you go to the net, good things happen, you’ll score goals.”

Tavares wasn’t the only Islander that had a good night. When he himself could have had a two-goal night, Matt Moulson made the selfless play and passed to Tavares for the empty net goal at 18:52 of the third to provide the final margin.

“You know what, I told him that was a hell of a play,” Tavares said of Moulson’s pass. “(It was) a little bit of a risky play there with the last minutes and we were only up by a goal. I wasn’t calling for it because I was trying to make the right play, but, like I said, it was a hell of a play and I had the easy finish.”

The Islanders top line has picked up right where they left off last April.

“For four games now, they’re one of our best lines,” Capuano said of Moulson, Tavares and PA Parenteau. “There’s no question that to me it’s about puck management and clock management and they understand those two things.  They know who they’re up against at certain times and when you do that and think the game like they think, you’re going to have success.”

In the second defensive breakdowns led to both of the Rangers goals (Marian Gaborik, Brandon Prust) – where they tied the score each time – but the Islanders never trailed.

“That’s the attitude you want to carry throughout the season,” Moulson said. “Not get frustrated and stick to our game plan and make sure you just keep coming. They tied it up and we showed a lot of character and kept going. Maybe previously our attitude might have gotten down when they scored but we never did. We just kept coming. We knew we were going to win.”

Capuano wasn’t as certain as Moulson was, that the outcome could have been different if this were the Islanders of a year ago, but he was happy that they gave a full 60-minute effort, killed all four penalties they took and held a 34-to-31shots on goal lead, the first time the team has outshot their opponent this season.

“Both teams have made some changes to their team, but tonight was an exciting game for sure,” Capuano said. “Behind the bench you could feel the intensity of the crowd, the players. There were close to 30 hits at one point so they came out hard. They prepared and we were fortunate to get some timely goals.”

Evgeni Nabokov and John Tavares celebrate their 4-2 victory over the Rangers at the Nassau Coliseum on October 15, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Next week, the Islanders head to the Sunshine State for their first two road games this season. They leave Long Island with six goals in four games, their best home record to start the season in 27 years, since going 4-0-0 in October 1984.

“To end the home-stand on three wins will give us confidence going on the road here,” Tavares said. “You have to take advantage of games, especially early in the season when you’re at home. These points are just as important as down the road in February, March and April. So you know, they’re a big two points within the division.”

Notes: Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov played his first NHL game as an Islander. He made 29 saves in the winning effort and took home the second star.

“I’m not going to surprise anybody with the answer that it feels good to win the game,” Nabokov said of his first game since donning a San Jose Sharks uniform in May of 2010. “The way the boys played in front of me was good and we were flying. It was an emotional game. It’s always nice to play when so many fans are in the stands and they cheer you up. It’s almost like they help you out a little bit. I think the guys responded really well and played a pretty good overall game.”

At the end of the night, Tavares was tied with a league-best 8 points and 5 goals; Parenteau was tied with a league-best 6 assists.

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