Tavares leads Isles to win over Flames
STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
|New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic shoves Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla (R) to the ice in the first period of their NHL hockey game in Uniondale, New York, December 29, 2011. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine
All the attention coming in was on Calgary Flames star Jarome Iginla and his quest for 500 goals.
Well, the New York Islanders' best player snatched that spotlight away Thursday night at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
John Tavares, the 21-year-old first-overall pick in the 2009 draft, got better as the game went on and put the Islanders ahead in the third period of a 3-1 victory over the Flames with a get-you-out-of-your-seats rush capped off with his 12th goal of the season.
The 6-foot, 206-pounder from Mississauga, Ont., streaked up the right wing then cut to the net at the last second between Chris Butler and Miikka Kiprusoff, then tucked the puck around the Flames goaltender to snap a 1-1 tie.
Iginla, meanwhile, remains at 498 NHL goals — his best opportunity turned away by the right pad of Isles netminder Evgeni Nabokov.
The still improving young star helped turn things around for the Isles, who had lost three straight coming in, and end the Flames' winning streak at four games.
It looked more promising for the visitors to extend their string to five when they struck early in the contest.
When the Flames' fourth line found out it was facing the Islanders' top trio of Tavares, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo, it wouldn't have surprised anyone if they did what they could to win the faceoff and get off the ice for a quick change.
Instead, they took a long shift.
And the only reason they came off is because they scored.
Brendan Morrison stole the puck from Mike Mottau at the Flames blueline and led the rush the other way. He dangled in and dropped a pass for Tom Kostopoulos, who tried to feed Tim Jackman in the middle of the slot.
The offering bounced off Andrew MacDonald's skate and past Evgeni Nabokov to give the Flames an early 1-0 lead — with Jackman credited for his first goal of the season.
It was Jackman's other strong suit that kept things interesting for the rest of the frame, with big hits from either side rattling the boards on more than a few occasions.
Blake Comeau got the worst of an attempt to run former Isles teammate Matt Moulson. Matt Martin flattened Mikael Backlund behind the net. And with time ticking down in the opening period, a massive shot by Lee Stempniak on Kyle Okposo — connecting with the Isles winger's head with a shoulder — triggered a bit of a melee as Moulson jumped in for some revenge and bodies piled on.
Revenge came in the form of a tying goal early in the second period, with the Flames' fourth line this time coming out on the losing end of the matchup with the Tavares trio.
Tavares won the battle down low and P.A. Parenteau's pass to pinching defender MacDonald was quickly one-timed to the far side to beat Kiprusoff.
Brian Rolston added an empty netter to crush any hope of a Flames comeback.