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Tavares leads Isles past Oilers in 4-1 win

by John Kreiser
UNIONDALE, N.Y. – John Tavares and the New York Islanders won the battle of No. 1 draft picks.

Tavares, the first player taken in the 2009 NHL Draft, had a goal and an assist as the Isles finished 2011 by beating the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.

The Oilers, whose roster includes Taylor Hall, the first player taken in the 2010 draft, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 pick in 2011, lost for the third time in as many games during a seven-game trip necessitated by the World Junior Championship. Neither player hit the scoresheet, though Hall rang the post twice. Both finished with four shots on goal – as did Tavares.

"He's playing extremely well," Isles coach Jack Capuano said of Tavares. "He's strong on the puck, and his skills speak for themselves. He's playing with a lot of desire and determination right now."

Evgeni Nabokov earned his 297th NHL victory and second in less than 48 hours by stopping 28 shots as the Islanders beat the Oilers for the sixth straight time at the Coliseum. The Oilers haven't won on Long Island since Dec. 14, 1999.

"I thought goaltending and special teams were a huge factor," Capuano said. "Our penalty kill did a great job against a highly-skilled team, our power play got some timely goals and Nabby made some big saves at key moments."

Edmonton goaltender Devan Dubnyk stopped the last 20 shots he faced – but only after allowing four goals on New York's first nine shots.
"I have to be better," he said.

The Oilers also paid a big price for a pair of unnecessary penalties by Ben Eager that turned into power-play goals by Tavares and PA Parenteau.

"We became a little unglued and took some bad penalties," Oilers coach Tom Renney said.

Defenseman Andy Sutton, a former Islander whose second-period hit sent Tavares to the locker room for a few minutes, said the Oilers can't afford to lose to teams on their own level like the Islanders.

"We're fighting from the bottom looking up," Sutton said. "We have the make the most of these opportunities against teams that are on our level."

Tavares, whose spectacular third-period goal lifted the Islanders to victory against Calgary, opened the scoring just 3:44 into this game – and didn't have to work nearly as hard this time.

With Eager in the box for roughing, Parenteau misfired on a shot from the slot -- but the loose puck went to Tavares, who was alone at the left post for an easy backhander into a half-empty net for his 13th goal.
Hall nearly tied it at 6:25 when he beat Nabokov but hit the post. The Oilers did get even at 12:58 when Corey Potter's slapper from the right point hit teammate Sam Gagner, who was battling for position in front, and went past Nabokov for his fourth of the season.

Moulson had a goal waved off 17 seconds later when it was ruled that he deliberately directed Kyle Okposo's pass into the net with his foot. He got one that counted with 2:05 left in the period by finishing off a spectacular pass from Tavares, who came down the right side and made a spinning move to slip the puck through two defenseman to Moulson, who buried it for his 17th.

"Johnny and Okie were really going tonight," Moulson said. "I just had to get open for those two."

The Moulson-Tavares-Okposo unit was dangerous almost every time it stepped on the ice.

"They're a world-class line," Sutton said. "They have all the skills necessary to hurt you, and they capitalized on some of our mistakes tonight."

Eager, whose first-period penalty led to Tavares' goal, took another unnecessary penalty when he was called for roughing 2:52 into the second period – and the Isles turned it into another power-play goal. Parenteau took a slick pass from Moulson and whipped a one-timer from the left circle behind Dubnyk at 3:19 for his seventh of the season.

"We came out to a good start, but it's a matter of being disciplined at the right times," Gagner said.

Matt Martin, who drew both penalties on Eager, made it 4-1 just 46 seconds later when his bad-angled shot from below the right circle got past Dubnyk. It was Martin's fourth of the season and the Isles' fourth on nine shots in just over 24 minutes.

Hall and Nugent-Hopkins had some scoring chances in the third period, but couldn't convert.

"There were some pretty dynamic young players on the ice today," Moulson said. "That's good for the NHL – something we need as a whole. Those guys are good players; luckily for us, today we were able to shut them down."

Before the game, the Islanders inducted defenseman Ken Morrow, a member of all four Cup-winning teams from the early 1980s, into their Hall of Fame. Their performance was light years better than the one that followed the last induction -- they were routed 6-0 by Boston on Nov. 19 after honoring Ed Westfall, their first captain.

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