There were goals (plural), there were points (also plural) for the Islanders captain and there was a win. Heading into the holiday break, the Islanders put things right with a very complete 5-2 win over the Ducks at Barclays Center Monday night.
John Tavares had two assists in a 43-second span late in the first period as the Isles snapped a 1-1 tie with late goals from Travis Hamonic and Brock Nelson to lead them to their first win in four games and first multi-goal game in that same span — they had scored only two goals, both by Nelson, in losses to the Panthers, Avalanche and Coyotes last week.
Carl Hagelin put the Islanders in a 1-0 hole just 6:52 in, drawing some groans from the 13,578 on hand. But the Islanders continued to push, with Cal Clutterbuck’s solo effort along the left-wing boards resulting in a wrist shot over Frederik Andersen’s shoulder to tie the score at 14:54 and break the dam a bit.
“I think that’s what we’re looking for,” Clutterbuck said. “It’s a little tough when the other team scores first and we’re coming in with three losses in a row. But the second half of the first was just what we needed.”
And Tavares definitely got what he needed in the final minute of the first. After Ryan Strome won an offensive-zone draw, Tavares drew a couple Ducks to him and dropped the puck for Hamonic, whose seeing-eye wrist shot got through Nelson’s screen and behind Andersen for an Isles lead at 19:00.
Still in the last minute of the period, Tavares again drew a crowd as he crossed into the Anaheim zone and dropped another pass, this one for Nelson. He cruised down the slot untouched and snapped his 12th past Andersen.
Those assists were Tavares’ first helpers in 13 games and it was his first multi-point game since Nov. 21.
“I think you notice when you’re not producing,” said Tavares, who had one point in eight games coming into Monday. “I felt like I had good games in this stretch. I just haven’t been rewarded.”
He also got out some frustrations in the second period, though perhaps his decision to tussle with Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was ill-advised. Tavares took a few whacks at Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg and appeared ready to drop the gloves with the young Swede, but the hulking Getzlaf stepped in and Tavares still tried to wrestle.
“It was just heat of the moment, probably not the smartest decision,” he said. “I’d been slashed I don’t know how many times tonight. I just had enough.”
Jaroslav Halak (27 saves) played his best in a 12-stop second period, keeping the score at 3-1. Josh Manson scored off a deflection that landed in his lap at 7:32 of the third to bring it to a one-goal game, but Anders Lee deflected a Ducks pass right to Josh Bailey alone in the slot and he blasted one past Ducks substitute goaltender John Gibson at 9:35 to restore the two-goal edge.
Matt Martin hit an empty net at 17:27 to give the Isles their biggest offensive output since a 5-3 win over the Avalanche on Nov. 30. Just as important, Tavares got off the skids.
“I’m sure he was feeling [the slump] more than anybody,” Clutterbuck said. “It’s a tough spot when that’s what you’re counted on for and you could see it wearing on him a little. I’m sure he feels good to get out of it.”