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Islanders open road trip with win against Sharks

by Eric Gilmore /

SAN JOSE -- John Tavares and Mikhail Grabovski scored back-to-back goals in the first 3:30 to lead the New York Islanders to a 4-2 win against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Tuesday.

Islanders backup goaltender Thomas Greiss, who began his NHL career with the Sharks, made 34 saves in his first game and start against San Jose.

New York (8-5-3), which was 1-3-2 in its previous six games, opened its three-game road trip with a victory. The Islanders ended their six-game streak of scoring two or fewer goals.

"We've obviously been having a tough time scoring," Tavares said. "We could sense we were ready today. The guys wanted to start the road trip off right. It wasn't the best second half, but we did some good things, and when you get two goals early, especially on the road, it gives you a lot of jump, a lot of confidence."

Sharks forward Joel Ward scored his eighth goal of the season in the second period, but defenseman Johnny Boychuk scored 45 seconds into the third, extending the Islanders' lead to 3-1.

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns scored at 14:49, taking a pass from Tomas Hertl and putting a sharp-angled shot from the right of the crease inside the near post to make it 3-2.

Alex Stalock left the net with 1:30 remaining and the Sharks turned up the pressure on Greiss, but Tavares scored an empty-net goal at 19:55.

"It's always a little extra motivation," Greiss said of facing former teammates. "You want to beat those guys a little more. They're a good hockey team over there too, and they just threw everything they had at us."

Sharks starting goaltender Martin Jones gave up two goals on three shots and was pulled for the second time in his past three starts after Grabovski scored at 3:30 of the first. Stalock made 21 saves.

"We needed a momentum change," Jones said." Al stepped in and played great the last couple games. It's not fun getting pulled, but I don't know if I was surprised. My game feels good. There've been some goals here and there, some bad bounces, a couple deflections, but I feel really good with my game."

The Sharks (7-8-0) gave up the first goal for the eighth time in their past 10 games. They lost their second straight game and are 3-8-0 over their past 11 after winning their first four games.

San Jose finished 1-3-0 on its four-game homestand.

"Obviously we're talking about starts," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "We want to get a better start and it just doesn't happen. A bad bounce, a change or however it happens, we've got to fight through it.

"We're going to keep fighting. We're in games that are coming right down to the wire. We're usually down a goal right now. Guys are working, just like tonight, we get back to within one. We want to play with the lead."

The Islanders needed 36 seconds to take a 1-0 lead on Tavares' fifth goal of the season and first since Oct. 24. Jones denied Brock Nelson's shot from the left circle on a 4-on-3 rush, but the rebound went directly to a wide-open Tavares, who scored from close range.

The Islanders made it 2-0 on Grabovski's long wrist shot that eluded Burns and beat Jones to the glove side.

"We deserved it," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We worked hard and did a lot of good things tonight against a really good hockey team. We haven't had any puck luck in a while."

Each team had 11 shots in the first period, but San Jose outshot the Islanders 14-6 in the second and cut their lead to 2-1 on Ward's goal at 10:14.

Ward beat defenseman Travis Hamonic to the puck along the left boards, angled toward the crease and beat Greiss through the five-hole from close range.

The Islanders answered early in the third period when Boychuk scored on a slap shot from beyond the blue line along the right boards. His shot skipped off the ice and beat Stalock to the far side.

"It was going right along the ice, and then it just rose probably from I would say the top of the circles right in," said Boychuk, who had his parents in the crowd. "It just basically was going down and then it took flight. It was weird. I never scored like that before except in junior. I've seen it done. But that was a first."

"You can give up a bad goal in this league and recover, but you can't give up two bad goals and expect to win," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said.

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