UNIONDALE, N.Y. – The New York Islanders have finally found a winning formula: welcome travel-weary Western Canadian teams to the friendly confines of the Nassau Coliseum.
The only problem is, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have no other scheduled trips to Long Island.
The Islanders took care of business Saturday in their final game of 2011 behind the offence of star forwards John Tavares and Matt Moulson, who combined for five points in New York’s 4-1 victory over the Oilers.
Moulson had a goal and two assists, and Tavares and P.A. Parenteau both added one of each for the Islanders, who took advantage of shaky goalie Devan Dubnyk in the convincing victory.
Tavares and Moulson helped set up each other for goals in the first period, and Parenteau and Matt Martin connected in the second for the Islanders, who won their second straight following a three-game losing streak.
“Now it’s about being consistent,” Moulson said.
The Islanders (13-17-6) are still languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They have won four of 10, with a pair of two-game winning streaks following two three-game skids. Evgeni Nabokov made 28 saves for New York, which has gone 5-2-4 against Western Conference opponents.
“We have to continue to focus on things that give us our identity,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.
New York scored on four of its first nine shots at Dubnyk, more than enough offence to knock off the sliding Oilers, who are 0-3 on their seven-game road trip forced by the world junior hockey championship in Edmonton.
The Oilers (15-19-3) are third from the bottom in the West, with a visit to conference-leading Chicago looming on Monday.
“It’s not what we wanted, that’s for sure. We’re at the bottom, looking up,” Oilers defenceman Andy Sutton said. “We have stretches where we play really well, and I feel like we become a totally different team for stretches of time. I think all teams go through that, it’s just ours seem to be lasting a little longer.”
The Oilers have lost seven of eight and nine of 12, and are 3-11-1 in their past 15. Outside of poor goaltending, Edmonton was also done in by the undisciplined play of Ben Eager, who took two roughing penalties that led to power-play goals by Tavares and Parenteau.
Eager, clearly unfazed by his costly penalties, was also whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct and given a 10-minute misconduct in the second period.
“We became a little bit unglued as the game went on, and certainly we took some bad penalties,” Edmonton coach Tom Renney said. “As the game went on, we became less engaged and had less ability to do what we needed to do to be a good, winning hockey club.”
Sam Gagner scored for Edmonton in between Tavares and Moulson’s goals in the first period to briefly forge a tie, but it didn’t last long. Dubnyk finished with 25 saves, including all 16 in the third period when the game was out of reach.
“There was no way I was taking him out,” Renney said. “It was an opportunity to battle back, and he did.”
The Islanders nearly took a 2-1 lead with 6:45 left in the first—just 17 seconds after Gagner scored—but Moulson had a goal waved off because he kicked the puck into the net. The no-goal was followed by a Grinch-related song played by the arena organist.
No matter. Moulson eventually gave the Islanders the edge when he scored with 2:05 left in the first, converting a perfect, cross-zone, spin-o-rama pass from Tavares.
Parenteau made it 3-1 at 3:19 of the second, while Eager was in the box a second time. Parenteau whipped a shot from the high slot off a feed from Moulson past Dubnyk. Martin pushed New York’s lead to three goals just 46 seconds later when he brought the puck out of the corner and beat Dubnyk with a shot from a poor angle, slightly above the goal line—a goal he would certainly like back.
“We’d like the whole game back,” Renney said. “If we could’ve come out in the second period and just tidied up a few things, I really thought we were in good shape to win. We got behind, and then it became turnover city, and that became contagious. You can’t win games turning the puck over and trying to do things by yourself. We paid the price.”
Edmonton came out quickly and put pressure on the Islanders for the first few minutes, but failed to connect against Nabokov. The tide turned soon after when the Oilers broke down in their own zone and let Tavares take advantage.
With Eager serving his first roughing penalty, Tavares passed the puck out of the lower left corner to Parenteau and went to the net. Dubnyk came way out, and Parenteau got the puck back to Tavares, who went around the overmatched goalie and easily tucked the puck into the vacated net behind him at 3:44.
Tavares, who also had a goal and assist in the Islanders’ 3-1 win over Calgary on Thursday, briefly left the ice in the second period after he was hit by Sutton several seconds after taking a shot. Tavares appeared to hurt his right side or shoulder, but returned soon after a trip to the dressing room.
“I just try to bring the same work ethic to every game,” Tavares said. “We just have to keep this going.”
NOTES: The past three No. 1 overall NHL draft picks were in the game: Tavares in 2009, and Edmonton’s Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the following two years. … Sutton returned after serving an eight-game suspension for charging Carolina’s Alexei Ponikarovsky on Dec. 7. … Tavares has assisted on 11 of Moulson’s 17 goals. … Islanders D Steve Staios returned after missing seven games with an undisclosed upper body injury.