CALGARY - John Tavares scored twice to lead the Islanders to a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Friday night, for New York's third consecutive win.
After Tavares opened the scoring eight minutes into the game, the score remained 1-0 until 12:16 of the third period when Tavares got the puck in the slot, fended off Deryk Engelland and fired his team-leading 17th goal through the pads of Jonas Hiller.
The Flames got a goal from Johnny Gaudreau with 3:25 left in the third period to get back within one but they could not tie it against Jaroslav Halak, who had 22 stops to win his seventh straight game and improve to 21-6-0.
New York (26-11-1) improves to 7-1-1 in its last nine games and keeps pace with the Pittsburgh Penguins atop the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders third stop on a season-long seven-game road trip goes Sunday in Edmonton.
Calgary (21-16-3) had its four-game winning streak snapped. The Flames are not back in action until Wednesday when they host Detroit. They are 3-1-0 with two games left on a six-game homestand.
The first game of 2015 for both teams looked more like the first game of the pre-season for much of the night. The game was devoid of any flow with both teams guilty of errant passes, numerous stoppages for icings and offsides and general sloppy play, especially in the first two periods.
Looking to tie the game, the Flames got back-to-back power plays early in the third period but were unable to take advantage against a New York penalty-killing unit ranked 29th in the NHL.
Calgary failed to generate a shot on the first chance and the best scoring chance of the second power play, a Curtis Glencross set up of Sean Monahan, was stopped on a superb pad save by Halak.
New York took a 1-0 lead eight minutes into the game, capitalizing on a two-minute two-man advantage.
With Lance Bouma already in the penalty box for tripping, Matt Stajan was sent off on the ensuing face-off for covering his hand on the puck.
Calgary killed off the first 45 seconds of the 5-on-3 without any troubles but once the Islanders got set up, they moved the puck around nicely and eventually, Ryan Strome fed a perfect pass through the top of the crease to Tavares, who one-timed a shot in the open side before goaltender Jonas Hiller could slide across.
On the verge of being shut out for the first time this season, the Flames finally showed some life when Gaudreau pounced on a loose puck in the slot and rifled in his 13th of the season.
But that was as close as they would get despite pulling their goalie for the final minutes and 20 seconds and giving the Islanders a late scare.
Calgary leads the NHL with eight third period comebacks.
Hiller had 22 stops for the Flames. His record falls to 13-11-2.
Notes: In two career games at the Saddledome, Tavares has four goals. He also scored twice in his only previous appearance four years ago... The Flames shuffled their lines a little bit moving RW Joe Colborne onto a line with Monahan and Glencross and dropping David Jones to the fourth line alongside Matt Stajan and Brandon Bollig... LW Mason Raymond was a healthy scratch for Calgary for the second game in a row... The Islanders record when scoring first improves to 14-8-1. However, they still have a better record when surrendering the first goal (12-3-0).