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Tavares' hat trick propels Islanders to second straight win

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Despite a two-game winning streak, the New York Islanders aren't ready to declare they're bursting with positive momentum. But it sure beats the alternative.

John Tavares registered his fourth career hat trick and scored the first two goals of New York's three-goal outburst in the second period as the Islanders defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-1 on Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 15,488 at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders (6-7-1), who won at home for just the second time this season, have posted two victories in a row since a five-game losing streak and are within two points of eighth place in the East.

The Islanders scored their second-period goals in a span of 2:20, two nights after they scored three goals in the second period of a 4-3, come-from-behind win over the Rangers.

"Big wins for us," Tavares said. "But to say we generated momentum, we'll find that out more on Monday" when the Islanders play host to the Flyers.

Goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who had 30 saves, said, "I don't want to get too much ahead of myself. I don't want to think (any further than the) game against Philadelphia."

The Devils (9-3-3) remained a point ahead of idle Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano echoed the thoughts of Tavares and Nabokov and added he's thinking more about how the Islanders are finally yielding the benefits of a work ethic that never wavered during their losing streak. The skid started Feb. 3 in Nassau Coliseum when the Devils scored three goals in a span of 3:30 late in the third period to post a 3-0 win.

"The work ethic they put in a few of the games and they didn't get rewarded, now they're getting rewarded," Capuano said. "And that's something that you want to see."

Tavares, who last had a hat trick on Oct. 15, 2011, against the Rangers, extended his goal-scoring streak to five games for the Islanders (6-7-1) and moved into a tie for the NHL lead in goals with the Penguins' James Neal and the Sabres' Thomas Vanek.

"Not that I go out there and think about leading the league in goals, but when I get my opportunities, I want to contribute," Tavares said. "And I know offensively, that's where I contribute the most."

The Devils outshot the Islanders 15-9 in the first period, but the Islanders took control of the game in outshooting the Devils 14-5 in the second. New York finally began breaking through when Tavares put back a rebound of a shot by Brad Boyes with 3:14 left.

Just 83 seconds later, Tavares scored again -- this time on the power play -- when he dished the puck to Matt Moulson, whose shot to the right of the net glanced off Devils goalie Johan Hedberg and to Tavares, who again poked the deflection past Hedberg.

The Islanders extended the lead to 3-0 with 54 seconds left in the period with another power-play goal when Boyes corralled a loose puck behind the Devils' net and fired it to Moulson, who beat Hedberg from point-blank range.

"I really liked our first period," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "There was a five-, six-minute of the stretch of the second period [where] the game got away from us."

Marek Zidlicky put the Devils on the board with 11:13 to play, but Tavares sealed the game for the Islanders when he beat Hedberg with a slap shot from the right circle with 5:15 left.

Michael Grabner received credit for the Islanders' final goal in the final minute after the Devils scored an "own goal" when a loose puck ticked off the skate of Zidlicky and trickled into the net.

Hedberg had 28 saves for the Devils, including a stop of David Ullstrom's penalty shot late in the first period. Ullstrom, who was awarded the penalty shot after he was hooked from behind by Henrik Tallinder on a breakaway, beat Hedberg, but his shot clanked off the top of the post and fell into the goalmouth, where Hedberg pounced on it.

NOTES: After playing four times in the season's first 29 days, the Islanders and Devils don't play again until April 1. ... Devils minor-league winger Mattias Tedenby needed plastic surgery after he was hit in the face by an opponent's skate while playing for Albany of the AHL on Friday night. Tedenby opened the season with the Devils but hasn't played in the NHL since Jan. 27 due to a hip injury. ... Saturday marked the end of the Devils' third set of back-to-back games this season. They have seven back-to-back sets remaining. ... Islanders defenseman Matt Carkner missed his fifth straight game with a lower body injury but is expected to return against the Flyers on Monday afternoon. ... The Islanders fell to 0-2 in penalty shots this year with Ullstrom's miss. They are 1 of 8 on penalty shots dating to February 2011.
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