It was almost deja vu all over again for the Islanders, but John Tavares found a way to lead his club to a 3-2 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators Sunday afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum.
Tavares had the flu and it was not certain he would even play, but in the shootout, he made a spectacular fake that left Senators goalie Robin Lehner out of position and allowed JT to slide the puck into the vacated net to clinch the win.
“I didn’t think he was expecting the move I wanted to do,” Tavares said. “I just tried to sell the shot to try and make him commit so that I could go back to my backhand.”
Linemate Matt Moulson was impressed by Tavares’ move. “I didn’t see that one coming,” Moulson admitted. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do that one. It was a pretty goal.”
The Islanders held a 2-1 lead when Michael Grabner charged off the bench and intercepted a clearing attempt before beating Lehner with a hard, low shot with just 3:29 remaining in the third period.
But the Islanders were unable to hold the lead and saw it slip away yet again when Patrick Wiercioch scored a power play goal on a shot from just inside the blue line that deflected in past Isles starter Evgeni Nabokov with just 1:09 left on the clock.
But this time, the Islanders didn’t fold and found a way to win, led by Tavares who came up big in the shootout.
“John did what elite players do,” Isles’ Coach Jack Capuano said. ”He found a way for us.”
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead at 7:48 of the first period on a goal by Brad Boyes. Moulson set up the play with a pinpoint pass. It was Boyes’ fifth goal of the season.
The Senators tied it midway through the second period when Chris Neil found Mika Zibanejad in the high slot and he beat Nabokov to make it a 1-1 game.
The game was marked by physical play as Neil and the Islanders Matt Martin took turns delivering hits to opposing players. Neil finished the game with nine hits while Martin was credited with a game-high 11.
In the end, the Islanders found a way to win, something they have struggled to do at home all season. The Isles are now 3-8-1 at home this year.
“Today we just found a way,” Boyes said. “We’ve played games like this that have gone the other way…This was important today. We need to get up and keep climbing. It’s definitely rewarding, but it’s a feeling we need to remember and continue to have.”
The Islanders continue their home stand Tuesday night when they host the Montreal Canadiens. Islanders tickets for this and other home games are available.
Denis Potvin got a loud ovation from the crowd when he was announced. Potvin provides color commentary for Senators’ broadcasts.