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Isles dump Predators to end four-game skid

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Staving off an early-season panic, the New York Islanders snapped a four-game losing streak Tuesday night.

The crisis may just be starting for the Nashville Predators.

Centers John Tavares and Pierre-Marc Bouchard and right winger Kyle Okposo scored for the Islanders, and goalie Kevin Poulin collected 32 saves in a 3-1 win over the Predators at Nassau Coliseum.

The win steadied the Islanders, who were outscored 16-6 while going 0-4-0 on a five-day road trip last week -- their first pointless road trip of four games or more since the 2009-10 season.

New York (7-9-3) began the trip in second place in the Metropolitan Division but finished it tied for fifth in the division. With their win Tuesday, the Islanders moved within a point of the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes, who are tied for third place with 18 points.

As part of the NHL's realignment this season, only the top three teams in each division are guaranteed playoff spots. The other two spots in each conference are "wild cards" that go to the teams with the next-best records.

"I think our guys know where we are (in the standings)," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "For me, you look at who's playing and who's scoreboard-watching. We just try to prepare our guys for each period, each shift, each game."

The Predators (8-8-2) were certainly aware of how quickly they have imperiled their playoff positioning after losing their third straight, a stretch in which they were outscored 13-1.

Nashville, which went 2-0-1 in the first three games of a franchise record-tying seven-game road trip, is six points out of third place in the Central and fell into a tie for last place in the division when the Winnipeg Jets beat the Detroit Reds Wings on Tuesday night.

The Predators' locker room remained closed for 13 minutes after the final buzzer Tuesday.

"I can't say what we talked about, but we lost three in a row and we scored one goal," said Nashville right winger Patric Hornqvist, who snapped the team's 174-minute, 48-second scoring drought by scoring late in the third period. "It's pretty simple: We have to score more goals. It's tough to win in this league when you get behind every single game."

Even though the season is not even a quarter complete, Hornqvist said the Predators' road-trip finale against the Metro-leading Pittsburgh Penguins is a must-win.

"Oh yeah, we have to win on Friday night, no question about it," Hornqvist said. "This is a huge game for us. We have to stop this train right here. I know we have a good group of guys in here, but everybody has to show up on Friday."

The Islanders wasted little time showing up Tuesday, when they generated four power plays in the first 15 minutes and outshot the Predators 16-10.

It took until the fourth power play for the Islanders to finally get on the board. Center Frans Nielsen threaded a touch pass through a pair of Predators and to a wide-open Tavares, who beat Marek Mazanec from point-blank range to give the Islanders their first lead since the second period of last Tuesday's 6-2 loss to Washington -- a span of 233 minutes, 25 seconds.

The Islanders didn't have to wait nearly as long to double their lead. Bouchard scored just 113 seconds later after taking a pass from Nielsen, who won a faceoff in the Islanders' zone.

Okposo scored 7:07 into the second to give the Islanders their first three-goal lead since Oct. 8, when they routed the Phoenix Coyotes 6-1.

"Obviously, the win's important, and I think what's even better is the way we played," Tavares said. "Time to build off that. I know we've got a tough test coming on Thursday (when the Los Angeles Kings visit), and we need to keep improving. But (they) want to enjoy this one and keep being hungry for more."

After Okposo's goal, the only suspense was whetherPoulin would author his first career shutout. The Predators peppered him with 23 shots over the final two periods but didn't score until Hornqvist beat Poulin over his right shoulder with 5:30 left.

Poulin, who made consecutive starts for the first time this year, has allowed one goal in three of his six starts. He may be in the process of wresting the job from incumbent Evgeni Nabokov, whose 3.24 goals against average is second-worst among goalies with at least 13 starts.

"It's fun when you play a lot -- you're more comfortable, your movement is more fluid," Poulin said. "I'm seeing the puck pretty well."

Mazanec had 30 saves in his first NHL start for the Predators.

NOTES: The Islanders scratched LWs Eric Boulton and Thomas Vanek and D Radek Martinek. Vanek has missed the Islanders' last two games with an upper body injury but may be able to begin skating on Wednesday. ... The Predators scratched LW Gabriel Bourque, D Mattias Ekholm and C Mike Fisher. It was the fourth straight scratch for Fisher, who has a lower body injury. ... The consecutive starts in goal were the first for the Islanders' Kevin Poulin since Feb. 20-21, 2012, when he took losses against the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres. ... The Islanders' three-game homestand consists entirely of foes they didn't host during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The Los Angeles Kings visit on Thursday before the Detroit Red Wings -- a former Western Conference franchise playing its first season in the Eastern Conference -- arrive Saturday. ... The Predators also embarked upon seven-game road trips last season and in 2002-03. ... Predators LW Eric Nystrom is the son of Islanders legend Bobby Nystrom, who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1980 to give New York the first of its four straight titles.
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