New York, NY – Center John Tavares recorded a natural hat trick to lead the New York Islanders (14-22-7) to a 5-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres (19-20-5) in hockey action on Saturday night.
“It is nice to celebrate this one, we played a pretty good game,” said Tavares. “We did what we had to do to win the game. It was a great game by everybody. It was not just me getting the hat trick, but everyone contributed in all areas of the game.”
“It was a big game for Johnny,” said DiPietro of his teammate after the game. “I think over the last two or three weeks his game has come a long way.”
Head coach John Capuano had this to say of his young center after the game, “It’s a special game for him. You get three, and he had a chance at the end with the empty net go get four. He worked extremely hard tonight. His goals, obviously on the power play, but he played very sound defensively that lead to a lot of chances offensively.”
Another key part to the Islanders victory was the play of keeper Rick DiPietro, who out shined Buffalo keeper Ryan Miller. DiPietro was able to make some stellar saves finishing the night with 40 stops, while Miller finished the night with 32.
“I feel good physically today,” said DiPietro, who hasn’t played due to injury. “It was a good test today and I was glad to be able to get the victory.”
In a fast paced first period, neither team was able to get on the board in spite of many good scoring opportunities. Tavares would get a great opportunity at the 13:26 mark as he and P.A. Parenteau had a wide open two-on-one chance at Miller. The sophomore center would try for a nine foot wrister that would be denied by the Buffalo keeper.
New York would have another golden opportunity at the 14:08 mark as Radek Martinek tried to scorch a 59 foot slap shot, but that opportunity would be pad saved by Miller. Thomas Vanek would have a good opportunity for the Sabres at the 17:43 mark, trying for a 20 foot wrister that would be stoned by DiPietro.
Buffalo would end the first period of play with a 5-on-3 advantage, as Milan Jurcina and Radek Martinek had to both serve out two minute penalties for tripping and high-sticking. The Islanders were able to hold Buffalo out of their zone, skating into the locker room with a scoreless game.
The Sabres would not take long though to take advantage of their extra-man opportunity at the start of the second period as Thomas Vanek (17) tallied an eight foot wrister at the 0:17 marker, which was set up by Tyler Ennis (11) and Jason Pominville (13) for the 1-0 lead.
Tavares (16) was able to strike for his first goal at the 7:50 marker, recording a 15 foot wrister which was set up by P.A. Parenteau (16) and Matt Moulson (10) to tie the game up at 1-1. Buffalo would allow for the star center to strike again when center Rob Niedermayer was sent to the sin bin at the 10:27 mark for high-sticking Jack Hillen.
Then Tavares (17) was able to strike for his second goal at the 10:34 mark, as he was able to put in a nifty backhanded shot, which was set up by Moulson (11) and Andrew MacDonald (14) to give the Islanders the 2-1 lead.
It was at the 13:36 mark that Tavares (18) recorded his natural hat trick, as fans proceeded to greet the goal by flinging their hats to the Nassau Coliseum ice. That third Islanders goal was a beauty of a backhanded shot by the center, which was set up by Moulson (12) and Parenteau (17) for the 3-1 lead.
New York would not stop their continuing to grind and play hard throughout the second period. Keeping the offensive pressure on Miller, who did not seem on top of his game. The Islanders struck for their last goal of the second period at the 15:25 mark when Blake Comeau (13) while falling to the ice, was still able to manage a 9 foot wrister past the Buffalo keeper for the 4-1 lead.
“I feel like I am shooting the puck more,” said Comeau on his game. “All of us are being competitive and not being satisfied with our game. We want to be a line that can contribute on a nightly basis.”
The Sabres would not back down so easily though as they would take advantage of a Milan Jurcina penalty at the 4:36 marker of the third period of play. Young Buffalo winger Tyler Ennis (10) would tally a 27 foot snap shot at the 5:55 mark to cut the Islanders lead to 4-2.
Just when Buffalo though that they would have another golden power play opportunity at the 15:19 mark, when Islanders center Josh Bailey was sent to the sin bin for hooking Buffalo center Nathan Gerbe. The Islanders would actually reverse that momentum, as winger Michael Grabner (10) tallied a 47 foot wrister at the 16:52 mark, which was assisted by Matt Martin (3) and Milan Jurcina (6), giving the Islanders the 5-2 lead.
In spite of the lofty lead, the Sabres still would not back down striking for a goal at the 18:15 mark as Jochen Hecht (7) tallied an 11 foot snap shot, which was set up by Jason Pominville (15) and Thomas Vanek (18) to make the Islanders lead 5-3.
Thankfully for the 12,223 in attendance, who rocked Nassau Coliseum all night long the play of DiPietro and the offense of the Islanders were enough as the team was able to skate away with the 5-3 victory.
New York will treat their fans to a rare 1:00 p.m. afternoon tally on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as they host the New Jersey Devils on Monday.
“The Devils look good right now,” Capuano said of his opponents on Monday. “They have size, experience, and some good talent on that team. They are a defensive team, but they can creative offense from that. We need to have one of our best performances, if we want to get those two points.”