UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Through two games, the New York Islanders’ top line had only two points to show for themselves.
None from John Tavares, none from Matt Moulson, and just two assists from P.A. Parenteau.
All of that changed in a potent first period against Tampa Bay when a fortunate goal provided just the spark this high-flying trio needed.
Tavares busted out with two goals and two assists in the first, and New York ruined the return of former Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson in a 5-1 rout of the Lightning on Thursday night.
Tavares was credited with his first goal just 36 seconds in when Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman swatted in a rebound of his shot. His second of the night with 3:45 remaining in the first pushed the Islanders’ lead to 3-1. He also helped set up Moulson and Parenteau as New York led 4-1 through 20 minutes.
“Sometimes all you need is a lucky goal like Johnny got,” Moulson said. “Right after he scored that I said ‘That is definitely going to spark us,’ and it did.”
Moulson and Parenteau both had a goal and an assist for the Islanders, 2-1 this season with one game left against the New York Rangers on an opening four-game homestand.
Tavares and his linemates felt good to finally hit the score sheet after two relatively empty games.
“We were hungry out there,” Tavares said. “It was only two games. There are still 79 to go, but it’s always nice to break the ice and get a positive feeling and get rewarded.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Roloson resumed his place in the crease to start the second, but he was gone less than seven minutes in when Michael Grabner knocked in a rebound of Kyle Okposo’s shot that went off the goalie’s glove and down his back.
Al Montoya earned his third straight start for New York and won for the second time in two outings. The only difference this time was that Evgeni Nabokov served as his backup in place of oft-injured Rick DiPietro, who got hurt in practice on Wednesday when a shot from teammate Brian Rolston struck him in the mask.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano said DiPietro underwent tests Thursday and would be re-evaluated on Friday.
The lone bright spot for the Lightning was the first goal of the season for star forward Steven Stamkos, who tied the game at 7:10 of the first. The goal was originally credited to former Islanders defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron.
“If you give up four goals in the first period, you’re not going to win many games,” Stamkos said.
Montoya shook off his lone blemish and was as solid as necessary, finishing with 34 saves.
Roloson was dealt from the Islanders to the Lightning on New Year’s Day, and he was a key player in Tampa Bay’s run to the Eastern Conference finals. The start to this season hasn’t been kind to Tampa Bay or Roloson.
The Lightning have dropped three of the first four games in their opening five-game road trip (1-2-1), and Roloson has allowed 10 goals on 61 shots in his last two outings. Roloson was touched for five goals on 43 shots in a 6-5 shootout loss to Washington on Monday and then gave up five more to the Islanders on 18 shots in just under 27 minutes.
“Their first goal sums it all up,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “I always believe it’s never over. That was our trademark last year, always coming back.”
Roloson trudged down the tunnel quickly after the first period, and made the same agitated trek after he was pulled in favour of Mathieu Garon in the second.
“It’s always disturbing when you lose,” Roloson said. “No nervousness at all playing here.”
Garon stopped all 16 shots he faced.
Tavares, whose career best is five points in a game, was held in check in the Islanders’ first two games as New York earned a split against Florida and Minnesota. He played a strong game in a 2-1 win over the Wild on Monday, and took advantage of the early gift from Hedman.
“He played relaxed. He went out and did the little things,” Capuano said of Tavares. “I thought he had an excellent game. I thought he was the best player on the ice.”
After Stamkos got Tampa Bay even, Moulson got to a loose puck in front that had been nudged by Tavares and scored his first of the season at 9:28. Tavares finished a pretty three-way passing play involving Moulson and Parenteau with 4:45 left in the first to make it 3-1, and Parenteau converted another feed from Tavares with 1:21 to go to complete the opening-period spurt.
NOTES: The Islanders’ record for points in a period is six, set by Bryan Trottier against the New York Rangers on Dec. 23, 1978. … The Lightning’s 12 goals this season have been scored by 11 players. Martin St. Louis is the only one with two. … Tampa Bay has lost five of six in the series, including three of four last season. … Tampa Bay has killed all 22 short-handed situations this season, and went 4 for 4 against the Islanders, including a two-man advantage.