Fresh off taking the back page of Newsday with his shootout winner Thursday night, John Tavares kind of had that look like he was ready to do something special Saturday night.
Thanks to Evgeni Nabokov's first-period heroics (15 saves) and some late second-period special teams magic, Tavares delivered and then some as the New York Islanders broke away for what became a comfortable 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Tavares made it rain -- hats, that is -- when he finished his hat trick with a postage stamp snipe over Johan Hedberg's shoulder during a third-period 5-on-3.
That effectively iced the game after the Devils had made it 3-1 with a powerplay goal of their own early in the third. It couldn't have happened without Nabokov keeping them in it as the Devils got the better of play in the first (though Johan Hedberg too had to make some dramatic saves in that wide-open period).
But as has been the recipe in Islanders wins, Nabby stopped enough and then the special teams did the rest. The Islanders were tipping the scales back in the second period (shots: 14-5) before Tavares opened scoring with a rebound of Brad Boyes' shot on a nice three-man rush started by Tavares in the Islanders' zone.
Two powerplays followed in quick succession, Tavares batting in an airborn rebound before it fell back to the ice, then Matt Moulson burying a nice Boyes pass from behind the net,
Michael Grabner completed scoring on a Michael Grabner Hustle play that the Devils ended up finishing for him. Early in the first, David Ullstrom hit the crossbar on a penalty shot -- in accordance with the hockey gods, since the call on Henrik Tallinder on that play was probably in error.
The comfortable margin allowed the Islanders to spread the ice time around a bit; in a rarity, Tavares didn't even hit 20 minutes TOI. (He finished at 19:43.)
But the night very much belonged to Tavares, and all the Islanders fans who showed up for a good old Saturday night at the Coliseum but left without their hats.
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It's a shame to have to bring this up after a special night from the franchise star like this, but: Nice job, MSG.