Tavares broke out with a career-best two goals and three assists, Dwayne Roloson(notes) made 35 saves, and New York beat Vancouver 5-2 on Tuesday night. It was the perfect follow-up to a morning media session with Canadian reporters, during which the 19-year-old insisted he was playing well despite not scoring.
“I felt I was making good plays, I was creating a lot of offense the last few weeks, but it’s nice when everything starts to click and go in,” Tavares said after the game. “It’s something to build on and it obviously it feels good.”
Tavares, the first pick in last summer’s draft, burst into the NHL with rookie-of-the-year expectations after 15 goals and 27 points in his first 32 games. But he came into Tuesday’s contest with only three goals and nine points in his last 37 games before breaking out with his first five-point night in the NHL.
“I knew I proved myself early in the year offensively for sure, but overall my game has come a long way and I felt I’ve been playing well the last few weeks,” he said. “But it’s nice when you can contribute and make a big difference.”
Tavares made a nice play to set up defenseman Dylan Reese’s first NHL goal 6:22 into the first period, then jammed in a power-play rebound—created by his own nice pass behind the net—5 minutes later for his second goal in 22 games.
Tavares also set up Matt Moulson(notes) for his 26th this season, and Freddy Meyer(notes) in the second period before adding his 20th goal of the season into an empty net with 2:20 left as the Islanders won their third straight game. New York remained seven points behind Boston for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“It’s about being professional and realizing it’s not over yet,” Roloson said. “We’re still in a position we can make the playoffs and we believe we can. Is it a good chance, a 99 percent chance? No, but mathematically we’re able.”
New York went ahead 3-0 when Moulson redirected a spinning pass from Tavares behind Roberto Luongo(notes) with 4:30 left in the second period. But Kyle Wellwood(notes) responded on a rebound just over a minute later, and Alex Burrows(notes) pulled the Canucks within one goal with 1:25 left in the period, setting the stage for Vancouver to try to build on its NHL-leading 10 third-period comebacks.
Instead, Roloson stopped Mason Raymond(notes) on a partial breakaway, and Meyer made it 4-2 with 7.6 seconds left in the period after Tavares took the puck hard to the net off the wing. His sharp-angle shot deflected in off Meyer as he toppled towards the goal, and the Islanders held on to hand the Canucks their first home loss in eight games and just their eighth in regulation all season (25-8-1).
“To me, it was inevitable,” New York coach Scott Gordon said of Tavares’ goals. “A guy can’t get that many opportunities and not be able to cash in.”
“We weren’t really respecting the opposition,” Luongo said.
The Canucks were playing their third home game in four nights after returning from an NHL-record 14 straight road games while Vancouver hosted the Olympics. They seemed to run out of gas while being outshot 27-8 the final two periods of Sunday’s 3-1 win over Calgary, and had little early jump Tuesday.
Tavares helped put the Islanders ahead by drawing three Canucks as he peeled off the boards and feeding an open Reese at the point for a top corner shot Luongo never saw because Moulson was unchecked in front of the net.
After Tavares jammed a rebound through Luongo, Roloson made several great saves early in the second period before Moulson scored on New York’s third shot.
NOTES: Islanders RW Blake Comeau(notes) extended his point streak to four games with an assist and now has five goals and 12 points in his last nine games. … Canucks C Ryan Kesler(notes) had his point streak snapped at 13 games, ending the NHL’s longest active run, but LW Daniel Sedin(notes) extended his streak to 11 games and twin brother Henrik’s is now at six. … Vancouver RW Mikael Samuelsson’s(notes) run ended at seven games as he left the game during the third period for undisclosed reasons.