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The Skinny

by Eric Hornick / New York Islanders
Game 43

Isles 5, Buffalo 3

John Tavares recorded a natural hat trick in a 5:46 span of the second period as the Isles rallied from a 1-0 deficit and went on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 before 12,223 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Isles improve to 5-1-2 in their last eight games at home as they end a three-game winless streak (0-2-1). It’s only the 4th time this season that the Isles have won a game after allowing the opening goal (4-19-4).

Scoreless First
The Isles had fallen behind in the first five minutes of the last five games, but ended the first period of this game scoreless.  The Isles outshot Buffalo 15-14. 

Vanek Converts on a 5-on-3
The Isles took two penalties in the final 34 seconds of the first period and Thomas Vanek made them pay 17 seconds into the second with his 17th goal of the season.  It’s the 6th straight game and seventh time in eight games that the Islanders have allowed the opening goal.

Tavares Time
With the Isles trailing 1-0, it was time for Tavares to take over, recording the first natural hat trick by an Islander since December 3, 2009 (Matt Moulson in Atlanta) and his second hat trick of the season and career. Matt Moulson recorded the first three assist game of his career, assisting on all three tallies as he became the first Islander with three assists in a game this season.  Tavares now has eight goals in his last eight games.  He has 18 goals on the season, having played in 40 of the Isles’ first 43 games.  He is 23 games ahead of last season’s pace, when he scored goal 18 in Philadelphia on March 9th.  The middle goal came on the power play. Tavares leads the Isles with 8 power play goals, but this was only his 2nd on home ice.  Prior to scoring against Vancouver on Tuesday, all six of his power play goals had come on the road.

Four Goal Period
Blake Comeau scored for the third straight game (5th in 6 games) and made it a four-goal period when he beat Olympian Ryan Miller at 15:25. The four Isle goals came in a span of 7:35 – one game after the Isles allowed four second period goals to Ottawa in a 7:14 span. At that point Tavares and Comeau had combined for the last six Islander goals. The Isles outshot Buffalo 18-14 in the second period; the teams combined for 61 shots in two periods – matching the Isles’ single-game average.

Sabres Battle Back…But Grabner Puts it Away
Rookie Tyler Ennis recorded his 10th goal of the season at 5:55 of the 3rd.  It was the Sabres’ second power-play goal of the game.  Buffalo earned another power play with 4:41 to play, but this time it was the Islanders who scored, as Michael Grabner, dubbed by teammate Rick DiPietro as “the fastest guy on the planet” in a post-game interview beat Miller for the first shorthanded goal of his career and his 10th goal of the season.  Ennis and Grabner are tied for 6th in rookie goal scoring with 10; Grabner is the 5th rookie to score shorthanded. A Jochen Hecht goal with 1:45 to play was merely window dressing as the Sabres outshot the Isles 15-4 in the third.  5-3 Final.

Home and Road
The Isles are 14-22-7, including 8-8-4 at home. They are now 10-12-4 under Jack Capuano, including 9-4-2 in the last 14.  Buffalo falls below NHL .500 (19-20-5) and are 9-9-4 on the road.

In the Nets
DiPietro returned for the first time since being injured in Calgary on January 3rd.  He made 40 saves as he improved to 7-6-4.  It’s the ninth time in his career DiPietro has made at least 40 saves.  Ryan Miller made 32 saves for Buffalo as he started for the 21st straight game.

Power Plays
The Isles went 1-3 on the power play while Buffalo went 2-5. The Isles are 9-23 (39%) in their last eight games on the power play and have killed 22 of 25 (88%) over the last eight games.  The Isles scored their 5th shorthanded goal, matching their shorties allowed this season.

Hat Trick Stuff
John Tavares now has two hat tricks on the season; he’s the first Islander since Jason Blake in 2006-07 to have two hat tricks in a season.  Tavares fell one goal shy of the club/NHL record for goals in a period: 4, set by Bryan Trottier on February 13, 1982 against the Flyers.  He is the first Islander to score three goals in a period since Blake did so on February 27, 2007 against Philadelphia and the first to record a natural hat trick on home ice since Blake did it against Atlanta on January 11, 2003.  Tavares is the 9th player in the NHL to have multiple hat tricks this season; Washington’s Alex Semin is the only one to have three hats.  He is also tied for the league lead in goals in a single game this season; no player has scored four since Thomas Vanek did so late last season. He now has five goals in five career games against Buffalo.

In the Circle
The Isles won 37 of 58 (64%) face-offs.  John Tavares won 10 of 15 and has now won 25 of 36 over the last two games. He has won 52.8% of his draws this season after winning 47.5% in his rookie campaign. All four Islander centers won at least 60% of their draws.

Missing Men
Mike Mottau and Mark Eaton are out for the season. Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo, Doug Weight, Trent Hunter, Frans Nielsen and Rhett Rakhshani remain out; Dylan Reese was the Isles’ scratch. The Isles have now lost 269 man-games to injury.

Moulson Extends Streak
Matt Moulson, the Isles’ reigning ironman, has played in all 125 games since joining the team last season.  Zenon Konopka is the only other Isle to have played every game this season; his 55-game streak includes the final 12 games last season for Tampa Bay. Travis Hamonic has now played 23 NHL games (all consecutive); he has the longest consecutive game streak on defense for the Isles.

Home Sweet Home
The Isles even their record on this homestand (1-1-1 with two games to play).  The Isles are three games into stretches of 13-of-20 and 19-of-29 at home.  This was the 1500th home game in Isles history (758-539-203); the 12,223 who attended tonight’s game were two more people than the 12,221 who attended the first home game in Isles history (10-7-1972).

Season Series Stats   
The Isles lead the season series one games to none. After not playing at all in the first half of the season, the Isles and Sabres are meeting three times in a nine-game span. The Isles have won four straight home games against Buffalo.

Happy Anniversary
28 years ago today (January 15, 1983):   John Tonelli recorded a hat trick as the Isles defeated Los Angeles 5-2. It’s one of three hat tricks for Tonelli in an Islander uniform. Overall, the Isles are 7-10-2 all-time on this date.

Up Next
Saturday, January 17- New Jersey @ Islanders 1:00pm
[MSG+ (Subway Islanders Game Night at 12:30), WRHU 88.7FM]

The Islanders entertain New Jersey on Monday afternoon in the traditional Martin Luther King Day Matinee.  The Isles have won both meetings of the teams this season, outscoring the Devils, 7-1 and will be looking for their third straight win over New Jersey for the first time since winning six straight from the Devils (over two seasons) in 2007 and 2008.

This is the second straight season that the Isles have hosted New Jersey on MLK Day.  Rick DiPietro shut the Devils out, making 20 saves, last year.  This will be the 10th time since 1994 that the Isles have played the MLK Matinee.  They are 3-3-3 in the previous 9.

Eric Hornick has been the statistician on Islander home game telecasts since 1982. Information contained in “The Skinny” has been gathered from various sources.
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