It’s been tough going for John Tavares and the New York Islanders over the past few months, but tonight, Tavares scored the game winner in overtime and added to help the Isles edge the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 at the Nassau Coliseum. Dwayne Roloson made 34 saves to earn the victory.
It was the Islanders first win this season after giving up the first goal of the game (1-15-3).
“We’ve given up enough leads and enough opportunities to close out games,” Tavares said. “It was nice for us to step up.”
The Islanders came out of the gate flat and were outshot in the first period 16-3. Only the fine play of Roloson kept the Isles in the game.
“Roli kept us in the game tonight,” Isles’ Coach Jack Capuano said. “When you give a team like that, with a power play like that, six minutes in the first period, we were fortunate to come out of that period 1-0, that’s for sure. It could’ve been two or three. He gave us a chance to battle back and we did, so a lot of credit goes to Roli tonight.”
The Lightning took a 1-0 lead on the power play midway through the first period on Ryan Malone’s 10th goal of the season. Although three Isles defenders surrounded Malone, he had plenty of time to take a second swing at the puck after fanning on the first one. Roloson reacted to the first attempted shot and was out of position when Malone made contact the second time.
Tampa Bay had plenty of opportunities to expand their lead including four additional power play chances over the first two periods but the Islanders managed to kill them all off and keep the deficit at one goal. The Lightning have the league’s most efficient power play.
The Isles drew even late in the second period when Tavares set up P.A. Parenteau at the right circle who beat Lightning netminder Dan Ellis to tie the game with 17 seconds left before intermission. The goal gave the Isles a big boost heading into the locker room for the second intermission.
“It seemed after PA’s goal, we really started moving our feet early in the third, really started getting to them and challenging their defense,” Tavares said. “We started to pick it up. We got a lot of opportunities.”
The third period was by far the Isles best of the game. Although neither team scored, the home team gained momentum as the period progressed.
It all set up Tavares’ winner in overtime. Good passing set up a shot by James Wisniewski from the top of the circle and Tavares beat Ellis on the rebound to give the Isles points in their last three games (2-0-1). It was Tavares’ first goal in 10 games.
“The last three games have been something to build on,” said Tavares, who scored his first goal in 10 games. “We’ve just got to make sure we keep focused on that. We can’t get complacent at all. We know how tough it’s been for us the last month and a half. We have to move forward and get something going.”
The game also marked the return of forward Josh Bailey, who played his first game for the Islanders since November 21. The club recalled Bailey from Bridgeport earlier this week.
“I felt great,” Bailey said. “I felt the way that I have the past couple weeks and tried to bring that same confidence back up here. I created some chances, didn’t get the results, but when the team gets the two points, it makes you feel better.”
Capuano was very pleased with Bailey’s play in his first game back. “That’s why he was used in certain situations on the penalty kill,” he said. “We talked about Josh coming back from Bridgeport, driving his legs, skating, being creative and making the plays that Josh Bailey does. He had a couple of turnovers tonight, but he did a lot of good things too and that’s the Josh Bailey that we need for the rest of the year.”
The Islanders return to action Thursday night when they travel to New Jersey to take on the Devils. A win and the Isles can pass the Devils in the standings.
Matt Martin sat out the first game of his two game suspension tonight. The other Isles’ scratches were Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervais. Mattias Ritola and Johan Harju were the Lightning scratches.