This makes the Islanders' sixth win streak of three or more games this season, the most since they had seven such streaks in 1984-85 (the pre-shootout/OT bonus point era, we must note), according to MSG and Isles stats.
Tavares scored one routine goal and one superstar goal while Halak was steady throughout, but in an unusual turn the key may have been the penalty kill, which protected 1-0 leads on three separate occasions, allowing only three shots to reach Halak in six minutes of 4-on-5 play.
In contrast, Tavares' first goal came on the Islanders' only power play opportunity of the night, a full two-minute 5-on-3 midway through the first period where Tavares finished a pretty sequence of passing from Ryan Strome and Kyle Okposo, the way Doug Weight probably draws it up in the lab.
The Pivotal Moments
In particular, two consecutive aggressive, thorough penalty kills in the third period were key to protecting the slim lead into the late stages of the game. Ryan Strome's "slashing" penalty was
ridiculously weak [upon further review, there was a hard stick-slash I initially missed. Standard call.], but John Tavares' high-stick after that penalty expired was a no-brainer after he tried to lift the stick of Jir Hudler and got Hudler's face instead.
Overall, the Islanders PK continued its positive recent trend, typified by more aggression in the neutral zone and against the opponent's setup in the Isles zone. They wanted the puck, they took the puck, they cleared the puck. And then, they made it harder for Calgary to regain the zone.
On his first shift out of the box, Tavares did a very John Tavares thing, and it ended up being the game-winning play. Starting with the puck behind the Flames net, he went into lacrosse mode and weaved, pivoted, spun, made a pass, took the pass back after it bounced off Kyle Okposo's skate, lost his defender, made another move and slotted the puck through Jonas Hiller's legs.
With just under eight minutes left in the third period, Tavares had made it 2-0 for the Isles, who then went into, "Yeah, we got this" mode, passing and using space at will, content in the knowledge that they had the lead and an insurance goal...until Calgary pulled Hiller for a sixth attacker.
With 3:25 left and a sixth attacker on the ice, Calgary worked the puck through traffic into the slot, where it popped free for Johnny Gaudreau to pot a low shot to Jaroslav Halak's left to make it 2-1. Halak's shutout was over, and suddenly Tavares' second goal was essential.
But the Isles were steady the rest of the way, allowing only a few nerve-wracking moments as the Flames pressed, and shifting play again to keep the Flames from pulling their goalie again until the final minute. There were a couple of opportunities to work the puck out of the zone and possibly set Tavares up for a hat trick via the empty netter, but that never materialized.
No matter. The captain got his goals. The Isles got their 26th win of the season in 38 tries. They kept pace with the Penguins -- who beat Tampa Bay, 6-3 -- at the top of the Metropolitan Division.