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Tavares powers Isles to 5-1 win

by Brian Compton /
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- John Tavares is a budding star in the National Hockey League. The Tampa Bay Lightning found that out the hard way Thursday night.

Tavares, the No. 1 selection at the Entry Draft two years ago, had 2 goals and a pair of assists in the opening period as the New York Islanders cruised to a 5-1 victory at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Al Montoya made 34 saves in his third straight start for the Islanders, who have now won back-to-back games after opening the season with a 2-0 loss to Florida last Saturday. They'll look to make it three in a row this Saturday night when they'll conclude a four-game homestand against the New York Rangers.

"I wanted some more shots on net," said Tavares, who left in the game in the third period due to a mild cramp in his quad. "We just played a simple game and got pucks to the net and got rewarded for it. It was only one period and one game, so I just look forward to Saturday now and get ready."

Tavares left the game in the third period due to muscle cramps, but told reporters after the game that he's perfectly fine.

"I just came in and had something to drink and I feel a lot better," Tavares said. "I'm sure I'll be fine. Just a cramp in my quad."

Steven Stamkos had the lone goal for Tampa Bay, which is now winless in the three straight and has allowed at least four goals in each defeat. Former Islander Dwayne Roloson allowed five goals on 19 shots and was relieved less than seven minutes in the second period by Mathieu Garon.

With a record of 1-2-1, Tampa Bay -- which visits Florida on Saturday -- is under the .500 mark for the first time under second-year coach Guy Boucher. The Lightning, who got within a game of the Stanley Cup Final last spring -- held a players-only meeting after the loss.

"This League is an unforgiving League … you have to earn it every day," forward Martin St. Louis said. "This is the National Hockey League. Every year, you start from scratch. Nobody's going to give you wins. You have to earn it, and we haven't done that. I'm not concerned, but we've got to rectify it pretty quick."

The Islanders got off to a fast start as Tavares scored just 36 seconds into the game. Tavares, who was held without a goal in New York's first two games, fired a shot from the slot that was denied by Roloson, but Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman -- the player picked immediately after Tavares in 2009 -- tried to swat the rebound away and accidentally knocked the puck into the net to give the Isles a 1-0 lead.

"Their first goal sums it all up," Boucher said. "Our goalie makes a save and our player has the puck up in the air and he bats it in our net. It shows what this game is all about. We played a team that played really well today. They're extremely fast."

Marc-Andre Bergeron, a former Isles' defenseman, helped tie things up at 7:10 of the opening period on a shot from the point that was redirected by Stamkos before trickling through Montoya's skates. It was Stamkos' first goal of the season.

But Matt Moulson quickly restored New York's lead as he beat Roloson at 9:24 of the first. With the teams at even strength, Mark Eaton ripped a shot from the point that went off the goal post. Tavares whacked at the rebound before the puck trickled out in front, where Moulson put it home for his first goal of the season.

The Isles' top line finally found some rhythm after generating few chances during the first two games.

"It felt like our timing was a lot better today," Moulson said. "I thought we worked hard in that first period to get ourselves going. Sometimes all you need is a lucky goal like that first one Johnny got. Right after we scored I said, 'That's definitely going to spark us.' It did."

Tavares put the Isles up by a pair with his second goal of the game with 4:45 left in the first. Once again at full strength, PA Parenteau made a nifty cross-ice feed to Moulson, who threw one towards the net from the left circle. The puck hit Roloson's skate and landed right on the stick of Tavares in front of the goalmouth, where No. 91 quickly tapped it home to make it 3-1.

"It was the John Tavares of last year and how he finished," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "The thing about Johnny is he puts a lot of pressure on himself. Tonight he played relaxed. He went out and did the little things. I thought he had an excellent game. I thought he was the best player on the ice."

Parenteau made it 4-1 before the end of the period with his first goal of the season. Tavares, who enjoyed his most productive period since joining the NHL in 2009, stripped Hedman of the puck about 10 feed from the net, then made a gorgeous feed to Parenteau, who one-timed it past Roloson at 18:39.

Tavares, Moulson and Parenteau -- who make up the Isles' top line -- were all plus-4 in the period.

"The sky's the limit for this guy," Parenteau said of Tavares, who led the Islanders with 67 points last season. "He's a great player. He's got tremendous hands, great shot. He's fun to play with, obviously."

Roloson's night came to an end with 13:13 left in the second on Michael Grabner's first goal of the season. After Lightning defenseman Brett Clark turned the puck over at the Isles' blue line, Kyle Okposo came down on a 2-on-1 with Grabner and fired a wrister that hit Roloson up high. As the puck was coming down, Grabner managed to bat it into the net to make it 5-1.

"I wanted to turn the game around," Boucher said of the goalie change. "I always believe it's never over. That was our trademark last year, always coming back. I believe we could have done something, but the rebounds are never popping right now. We've got a lot of things to take care of, and we will."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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