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Tavares' three points help Islanders defeat Coyotes

by Brian Compton /

NEW YORK -- Offense has been hard to come by for the New York Islanders at Barclays Center, but they supplied more than enough Monday.

John Tavares had two goals and an assist, Frans Nielsen and Brock Nelson each had a goal and an assist and Kyle Okposo had three assists to help the Islanders to a 5-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes.

Steve Bernier scored and Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves for the Islanders (10-6-3), who have won three of their past four games.

New York scored six goals in its previous four home games prior to Monday.

"I think we've played really well on the road this year. I think what we're missing is [the goals] at home here now," Nielsen said. "I think we just have a much simpler game on the road, but I think we brought it tonight. We got pucks deep and we made them defend. When we play that way, we're a tough team to play against."

Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker scored late for the Coyotes (9-8-1). Arizona has lost the first two games of its four-game road trip.

Anders Lindback made 27 saves in the loss.

"We're making mistakes," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "It's not a thing about effort, we're making mistakes. We're just, plain and simple, making mistakes that cost us early in the game. We've got to wipe those mistakes out."

Nielsen gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal 4:51 into the game. After Coyotes center Antoine Vermette received a penalty for slashing, Tavares won a faceoff just outside the offensive zone. Okposo sent a drop pass to Tavares, who quickly sent a cross-ice feed to Nielsen for his eighth goal of the season. New York had one goal in its previous 21 power-play opportunities.

"We came up short," said Vermette, who took three minor penalties. "A few times, we were right around there, we just couldn't finish. We've got to build our game back to the point where it was."

Arizona had a chance to tie the game shorthanded 12 minutes into the second period when Connor Murphy's shot from the right circle on a 2-on-1 hit the post. Tobias Rieder collected the puck in front of the net and caught Halak out of position, but Islanders defenseman Marek Zidlicky was able to swat his chance away.

Nelson scored for the third straight game 1:23 into the third period. With the teams at even strength, Casey Cizikas got the puck near the right goal post after Okposo outworked Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek behind the net. Cizikas sent the puck across the crease to Nelson for an easy tap-in to make it 2-0. Nelson was credited with his sixth goal of the season, but it was Okposo's strength behind the net that ultimately allowed the Islanders to double their lead.

"He's a skilled guy, but when you're 220-plus pounds and 6-2, you want to play with that power forward instinct that he has," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of Okposo. "I thought tonight he was good. Anytime he's got speed moving in and he's driving to the net and he's cycling back and doing those things, he's a real effective player for us."

Tavares scored his eighth goal of the season at 5:38 of the third. The Islanders capitalized when Okposo was able to get in front of a clearing attempt behind the net by Lindback and he quickly found Tavares in front to make it 3-0. It was Okposo's 200th career assist.

"I thought we did a heck of a job executing tonight," Okposo said. "Offensively, we were pretty good too. We had a little lapse in the second, but it was a pretty good 60 minutes."

Bernier made it 4-0 when he redirected Johnny Boychuk's shot from the right point past Lindback with 8:10 remaining for his first goal with the Islanders.

Hanzal spoiled Halak's shutout bid with 4:15 left when he poked a loose puck in front of the net past the Islanders goaltender for his third goal of the season. Boedker cut the deficit in half with a power-play goal 2:08 later.

Tavares sealed it with an empty-net goal with 39.8 seconds remaining to make it 5-2. It was his first two-goal game at Barclays Center.

"It easily could be one of those games where you don't feel great," Tavares said after the Islanders spent last week in California. "Most guys probably didn't. But everyone goes through it and it's part of what you've got to deal with and it's a game where you've got to be mentally strong, and I thought that's where we were really good. We were making hard plays, playing our system well, executing at a high rate and that led to a lot of good things."

Islanders forward Mikhail Grabovski sustained an upper-body injury during the second period and did not return, leaving them with 11 forwards. Capuano did not have an update on Grabovski's status after the game.

Zidlicky played his 800th NHL game.

Prior to the game, there was a moment of silence to honor the victims of the attacks in Paris on Friday and the French national anthem was performed.


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