The New Jersey Devils had always found a way to contain John Tavares.
Tonight, he broke through.
The New York Islanders center recorded his fourth career hat trick to lead his team over the Devils, 4-1, at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The win was the second straight over a division rival for the Islanders and move them within one game of a NHL-.500 record.
Matt Moulson finished with a goal and three assists, helping break the Devils three-game win streak at the Coliseum.
Marek Zidlicky scored the lone goal for New Jersey, a power-play tally in the third period. The Devils have lost two its last three games and took its third regulation loss of the season.
Tavares helped open an offensive surge in the second period, scoring his first of the game at 16:46 of the period. Brad Boyes took a shot from the right circle that Devils goalie Johan Hedberg deflected with his stick. The rebound found Tavares in the left circle, who put the puck into the open net for his ninth goal of the season.
He would score his second of the period less than two minutes later, scoring a power-play goal to stretch the lead to two. Tavares, along the side boards, passed the puck to Moulson at the left post and cut toward the net. Hedberg stopped Moulson’s initial try, but Tavares was in position to knock home the rebound.
The Islanders pushed it to three straight goals less than a minute later. This time Moulson converted on a power play goal, taking a feed from Boyes in front of the net and beating Hedberg.
Tavares finished the hat trick in the third period, scoring New York’s third power-play goal at 14:45 of the final period. His shot from the left circle beat Hedberg high to the glove side.
New Jersey’s penalty kill, a staple of their success last season, has allowed seven goals in the last five games.
Zidlicky broke Evgeni Nabakov’s with his first goal of the season at 8:47 of the third period. With New Jersey on the power play, the Devils defenseman took a pass from Patrik Elias and skated into the right circle. His shot hit the shoulder of Nabakov and into the back of the net.
In a fitting end for New Jersey, Zidlicky also scored on his own goal, inadvertently knocking in a Michael Grabner shot with 35 seconds remaining in regulation.
Hedberg, who had allowed just two goals in three starts this season, finished with 28 saves. Nabakov stopped 30 of 31 shots.
Ilya Kovalchuk recorded a secondary assist on Zidlicky’s goal, picking up his 800th career point. He played in his 794th game tonight, and has 411 goals and 389 assists.
Elias has 12 points (2g, 10a) in his past seven games.
This was the fourth of fifth meetings between the teams this season, and the first time the home team has won.