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Tavares enjoys first MSG experience

by Dave Lozo /
NEW YORK – John Tavares didn't score a goal during his first game at Madison Square Garden, but the Islanders' rookie was able to appreciate the atmosphere while his team came away with a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.

The 2009 Entry Draft's No. 1 pick was held to just two shots in 16:28 of ice time, but he was effective away from the puck and finished plus-1.

But most importantly, the Islanders took two points from their biggest foe.

"It's pretty unique," Tavares said of the MSG aura. "The intensity of the game was up, the pace was high. It was just great for us to play such a good game and bounce back like we did after Monday (a 7-1 home loss to the Florida Panthers) and we were able to get two points."

Still, Tavares wouldn't have minded putting one past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

"I always like to contribute," Tavares said, "but I thought I played well all over the ice, and that's just as important as scoring a goal."

The 19-year-old rookie was lamenting a missed opportunity in the third period in which he was 1-on-1 with Lundqvist, but the veteran netminder got the best of him.

"I had that great chance in the third and I probably should've made a move and tried going around Lundqvist, but he made a good save," Tavares said.

At one point during the game, a few fans in the sellout crowd of 18,200 booed Tavares when he carried the puck – the same treatment afforded to Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby in a lot of NHL arenas outside Pittsburgh – but it never really gathered steam.

But the good news for fans – and Tavares – is they'll be seeing a lot of each other as long as he calls Long Island home.

"A lot of people talk about what it's like playing at the Garden, the special place that it is and all the great events that have happened here," Tavares said. "It's a lot of fun coming here for the first time. It'll be one of many so I just want to make sure to treat it like any other."

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