BARRIE, Ont. – John Tavares hopes the New York Islanders can follow a pre-season win with plenty that actually matter.
Johan Sundstrom had a pair of goals as the Islanders defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-2 in NHL action Sunday at the Barrie Molson Centre.
Kyle Okposo had a goal and an assist for the Islanders, who built up a 3-0 lead in the first period and never looked back while Tavares and Justin Johnson picked up the other goals.
The Islanders also beat the Senators 4-1 in a split-squad game in Ottawa on Sunday night. Tavares said his team was eager for the start of the regular season Tuesday.
“We’ve been looking forward to it ever since we got back to New York for training camp,” Tavares said. “(The exhibition season) is part of the journey to get there and it’s been a lot of hard work, and we’ve got a few more practices this week.
“But it’s great to be able to end it on a good note and reach this point.”
Matt Puempel and Cory Conacher replied for the Senators.
Okposo opened the scoring for New York when his slapshot deflected off of Senators defenceman Joe Corvo’s stick and over the left shoulder of Ottawa goaltender Robin Lehner.
The Islanders doubled their lead on the power play, as Sundstrom deflected Thomas Hickey’s point shot past a partially-screened Lehner.
New York pulled ahead 3-0 just 30 seconds later, when Justin Johnson fooled Lehner with a 45-footer that slipped between his right goal pad and blocker.
“It was important for us to get off to an early start, but unfortunately, we didn’t do that,” Conacher said. “It was a rough game all around.”
Puempel put Ottawa on the board in the second period when he pounced on a rebound in front of the net. However, Sundstrom replied shortly after with his second of the night, blasting home a cross-crease feed from Joe Diamond.
“(We’ve improved with) a lot of the timing stuff and getting the rhythm back with your linemates in the system we want to play,” Tavares said. “It’s about getting all five guys on the ice working together as a unit.”
Tavares picked up his fourth goal in his fifth pre-season game in the third when he cut towards the slot and backhanded a shot past Lehner.
“I think this is the most (exhibition games) I’ve ever played, so it’s been helpful,” Tavares said.
Conacher rounded out the scoring in the third on a two-man power play, when Clarke MacArthur fed the winger in front of the goal.
“It’s been a long camp and we were playing the last pre-season game in the league,” Conacher said. “It’s definitely a different mind-set for some guys, but at the same time, you can’t use that as an excuse.
“You have to play the same way you always know how to play, and tonight, I don’t think we did that as best we could.”
Although this was considered a home game for the Islanders, the crowd in Barrie was predominantly rooting for the Senators.
“It was fun to (play) in front of this crowd here,” Conacher said. “It’s nice to play in front of different fans that you may have never gotten the chance to play in front of before.”
Anders Nilsson picked up the victory for the Islanders, stopping 15-of-16 shots in the first half of the game before being replaced by Kevin Poulin, who turned aside all but one of the 16 attempts he faced.
Lehner made 33 saves in defeat.
The Islanders went 1 for 4 on the power play, while Ottawa scored once on six chances with the man advantage.