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Tavares' two quick strikes lead Islanders past Capitals

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Now that the New York Islanders finally figured out how to win at home, they are ready to hit the road.

John Tavares scored two power-play goals 30 seconds apart in the third period as the Islanders closed a seven-game homestand by defeating the Washington Capitals 5-2 Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders finished the homestand 3-2-2 but went 3-0-2 in the last five games. They are 5-8-2 at home as they prepare to begin a three-game road trip against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.

"This was a good way to finish at home, for sure," Tavares said. "We've got a tough one tomorrow and then a few days [off], and then two more tough ones next weekend. This was a good sendoff, and now we have to get back to the way we were playing on the road -- to get back into that mindset and how we've been successful."

New York is 6-3-1 away from the Coliseum but had won twice in their first 12 games at home.

"We knew we needed to improve at home," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We'll enjoy this win for a few minutes, but it's back to work with a tough set of games ahead."

Tavares broke a 2-2 tie with 7:47 remaining when he fired a rebound past rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who was making his first NHL start. Tavares then rocketed a wrister past Grubauer 30 seconds later on a shot that originally was ruled no goal. Play went on for more than two minutes until Matt Moulson scored, only to have his goal taken away.

"We got the goals we needed to give us the lead, and the confidence to finish the rest of the game," said Tavares, who has 16 goals, tying him for second in the NHL with Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings. They trail Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who leads the League with 18.

The second goal was the 100th of Tavares' NHL career.

Frans Nielsen added a shorthanded breakaway goal with 3:01 to play. Josh Bailey and Casey Cizikas also scored for New York (11-11-3).

The Capitals got goals from Mathieu Perreault and Nicklas Backstrom but had a three-game winning streak snapped and lost for the second time in their past nine visits to the Coliseum. The Islanders held Alex Ovechkin off the scoresheet, meaning he'll need at least one more day to reach 700 points in his career.

"We wanted to take away time and space from Ovechkin's line," Capuano said. "They'll always get their chances, but we limited them the best we could."

Washington's improved play in recent weeks has been partly due to the Capitals' success in staying out of the penalty box. But they gave the Islanders six power plays, four in the final period.

"It's obviously a very frustrating third period," said Capitals coach Adam Oates, who felt there were several uncalled penalties by the Islanders in the final period. "I can blame penalties, but we're also very frustrated."

Grubauer finished with 40 saves. Evgeni Nabokov, who at 37 is 16 years older than his Washington counterpart, made 22.

For a moment, it looked like the Islanders might fritter away another third-period lead. They led 2-1 after two periods, but the Capitals tied it at 7:09 when Backstrom took a pass from Eric Fehr and one-timed a rocket past Nabokov for this third of the season.

Whatever momentum the Capitals gained from Backstrom's equalizer was lost moments later when Mike Ribeiro was called for high-sticking Tavares at 8:48 and received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for complaining about the call. The Capitals killed the first penalty, but Tavares cashed in on the second by hammering home a rebound for his 15th goal of the season.

"Mike knows better than that," Oates said. "I'm sure he feels bad about it."

Just 22 seconds later, the Islanders received another four-minute advantage when Jeff Schultz was sent off for high-sticking Andrew MacDonald. Eight seconds after that, Tavares scored from the right circle to give the Islanders a two-goal lead.

"It's tough to try to stay into the game for those guys who don't penalty-kill when you have to penalty kill eight minutes out of the last 12," Washington forward Troy Brouwer said.

After a quiet first 10 minutes, Bailey gave the Islanders the lead at 10:46 when he tapped in a perfect pass from Nielsen to finish a textbook 2-on-1 rush. Capitals defenseman John Carlson coughed up the puck at the Islanders blue line, and Nielsen stepped around Karl Alzner in the neutral zone before racing in to set up Bailey's second goal of the season.

Nabokov made the best of his eight stops in the opening 20 minutes when he kicked out his right pad to deny Jay Beagle's snap shot from the lower right circle with 36 seconds remaining before intermission.

The Capitals got even 1:26 into the second period with some help from a fortunate bounce. With Radek Martinek off for holding Fehr's stick, Nabokov stopped Carlson's blast from the right point, but Perreault's rebound try clipped the skate of defenseman Travis Hamonic and slid past Nabokov for his seventh goal of the season. The goal was originally credited to Joel Ward but was changed after the game.

Washington carried the play after the goal and nearly went ahead 6:05 into the period when Perreault picked up a rebound in the slot, turned and beat Nabokov cleanly only to hit the crossbar.

It was the Islanders who took the lead midway through the period after a neutral zone turnover by Ovechkin. Matt Martin led a 2-on-1 break before dishing to Cizikas, who moved into the right circle and snapped a high wrist shot past Grubauer's blocker at 10:03 for his third of the season.

Oates said going home empty-handed was more a function of his team's mistakes than anything the Islanders did.

"Quite honestly, I didn't think they earned anything tonight," Oates said. "I thought we played a pretty solid game -- a couple of miscues, turnovers. Other than that, we played solid, except the penalties."

Capitals defenseman John Erskine left early in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return.

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