The Islanders (7-6-6) have scored three goals in the first period of each of their last three games, something they haven’t done since 1980. They’ve also turned those strong starts into a 2-0-1 record, giving them a 6-2-3 mark after opening the season with six losses in a row (0-3-3).
“We’re really finding our chemistry,” Tavares said. “We’re making the big plays when we need them most.”
Tavares scored twice in the first period Friday before Okposo tallied the game-winner with 14.4 seconds left in overtime to clinch a 4-3 win at Carolina.
Tavares, the top overall pick in this year’s draft, leads all rookies with seven goals and 16 points. Those totals rank him second on the team in goals, one back of left wing Matt Moulson(notes) - his linemate with Okposo. He’s tied with Moulson for the Islanders lead in points.
Tavares has also been hot lately, recording two goals and three assists in the last three games after managing two of each over the previous 10.
Okposo, who has four goals and eight assists this season, is hoping he can continue putting a bout with the H1N1 virus behind him. The seventh overall selection in the 2006 draft, was held without a point over four games before assisting on Tavares’ first goal Friday.
“I feel pretty good,” said Okposo, who sat out Wednesday’s 5-4 shootout loss at Washington to open a season-high seven-game road trip. “It felt good to contribute again. It’s tough watching.”
With Tavares and Okposo producing, the Islanders are in position to become the first team to score three first-period goals in four consecutive games since Pittsburgh from Oct. 15-22, 1992.
They may have a tough time matching that feat against Vokoun, who has been stellar lately for the Panthers (6-9-1).
Vokoun has dominated New York at home, winning all seven meetings with a 1.14 GAA and three shutouts. Two of those shutouts have come in four matchups as a member of the Panthers while the other came with Nashville.
The goaltender would surely prefer some better offensive support after making 40 saves before stopping all four shootout attempts to set up the winning goal by Cory Stillman(notes) in Thursday’s 1-0 victory at Boston. Vokoun’s outstanding play was the difference as Florida was outshot 40-23, including 19-1 in the second period.
“We survived the second period,” Vokoun said. “After the first shootout attempt didn’t go in, I thought, ‘Oh, my God. It’s never going to go in.’”
Vokoun has shutouts in three of his last four games, going 3-1-0 with a 0.74 GAA. That stretch comes after he lost eight consecutive games with a 3.77 GAA following a season-opening 4-3 shootout win over Chicago on Oct. 2.
Florida has struggled to find the net, and its 41 goals rank near the bottom of the NHL. The Panthers have scored more than three goals in a game only five times.
These teams split four meetings last season with the home team winning each.