UNIONDALE, N.Y.— John Tavares insists he’s more concerned with wins than his own numbers. Still, the New York Islanders’ leading scorer took a moment to marvel at his 100th NHL goal and his team’s resurgent play.
The 22-year-old center scored two power-play goals in the third period to lift the Islanders to a 5-2 win over Washington, ending the Capitals’ three-game winning streak. The Islanders won for the third time in four games and improved to 11-11-3, one point behind the Rangers for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“Sure, it feels great,” Tavares said of his goals. “It was nice to come through in a big way. We just have to keep working. Our momentum is good.”
Tavares scored his 15th goal at 12:13 and his team-leading 16th — the 100th of his career — 30 seconds later, and Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves for the Islanders. Josh Bailey, Casey Cizikas and Frans Nielsen – with a short-handed goal – also scored for the Islanders, who are 5-2-2 in their last nine games.
Tavares’ first goal came as Washington’s Mike Ribeiro was serving a four-minute penalty for high sticking and unsportsmanlike conduct. His second came with Jeff Schultz in the box — also for a double-minor — as Tavares beat Washington’s Philipp Grubauer, who faced 45 shots in his first NHL start.
Tavares – the top overall pick of the 2009 draft – is tied with Jeff Carter of Los Angeles for second behind Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos, who leads the league with 18.
“We came at them hard in the third, so it felt good to get the results,” Tavares said. “We had puck movement on my first goal. It was a good goal and a good time.”
Mathieu Perreault and Nicklas Backstrom scored for the Capitals, who came in with eight wins in 11 games since starting the season 2-8-1 under first-year coach Adam Oates.
“The penalties in the third period were deflating for us,” Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said. “We fought back to tie it and then to have two four-minute penalties against us was tough.”
Bailey opened the scoring at 10:46 with his second goal of the season. Nielsen backhanded him a soft pass as Bailey skated down the left wing on a 2-on-1 break. Bailey nudged a forehand past Grubauer.
Perreault tied the game at 1:26 of the second with his power-play goal coming when the puck went off the skate of Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic past Nabokov. The goal, originally credited to Joel Ward but changed after the game, was Perreault’s fourth of the season.
Cizikas broke the tie with his third of the season at 10:03 of the second, taking a pass from Matt Martin in the right circle and firing the puck past Grubauer on the stick side.
The play started after Alex Ovechkin – seeking his 700th point – turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Ovechkin has 348 goals and 699 points – most for any NHL player in both categories – since 2005-06.
Backstrom tied the game again at 7:09 of the third when his slap shot from the left point eluded Nabokov. It was Backstrom’s third goal of the season.
Nabokov (11-7-3) has started all but four games this season, and ranks fourth among active goalies behind Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Nikolai Khabibulin with 322 career wins.
The 21-year-old Grubauer – Washington’s fourth-round choice and the 122nd pick in the 2010 draft – was recalled from AHL Hershey to replace backup Michal Neuvirth who has been ill. Braden Holtby had started 11 straight games.
The Islanders played a strong game after a hard-fought 2-1 overtime loss to the Rangers on Thursday. New York concluded the long homestand 3-2-2.
“We are moving in the right direction,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We did a lot well as a team today. We’ll enjoy this for a few minutes and get ready for Pittsburgh.”
The Islanders will play seven of their next 11 games on the road starting Sunday against the Penguins.
The Capitals (10-12-1) return home to play the Rangers on Sunday afternoon. Washington has 16 games in the next 29 days with 10 on the road, where Washington is just 3-7-1 on the season.
The game was the first meeting of the season between the teams. The Islanders visit Washington on March 26 and April 4.
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