UNIONDALE, N.Y. – With John Tavares and the rest of the Islanders’ offence clicking, it hardly mattered who was protecting New York’s net at the other end.
The Islanders captain scored three goals and added two assists, prized rookie Ryan Strome scored the first goal of his NHL career, and Kevin Poulin won in relief of injured starter Evgeni Nabokov in New York’s 7-3 victory over the Dallas Stars on Monday night.
After falling behind 2-0, the Islanders scored four times in the second period and carried a 4-3 lead into the third.
“It was great, the intensity and pace we came out with in the second period,” Tavares said. “Great to see not just a few guys get it going, but everyone really fed off the energy.”
Tavares scored his first at 7:29 of the second period off a terrific pass from Thomas Vanek. He added two more in the third, netting a power-play goal with 3:07 remaining to push the lead to 7-3. It was the captain’s 20th goal of the season.
“A lot of people dream of those nights,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “Anytime (Tavares) has a night like that, it’s nice to win the hockey game.”
But the comeback victory came at a cost as starting goalie Evgeni Nabokov left with what appeared to be a groin injury. He was put on the injured list shortly after the game.
The 38-year-old Nabokov returned to action on Dec. 14 after he missed 11 games because of a groin injury sustained against Detroit on Nov. 16.
New York recalled goalie Anders Nilsson from Bridgeport of the AHL later Monday night.
With the Islanders on the power play early in the second period and trailing 2-0, Strome got New York on the board by putting a wrist shot past goalie Kari Lehtonen.
It took the 20-year-old Strome 11 NHL games to finally break the ice. He said it might have been the longest scoring drought he had endured, and he was starting to feel the pressure.
“It’s nice to get it out of the way,” Strome said. “Hopefully, I can just start playing now. (It was) starting to bug me a little bit. I had a couple of great chances. It’s a tough league to score. You’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities.”
Peter Regin, Brock Nelson, and Brian Strait also added goals for the Islanders, who scored six times in a span of 24:38 and won for the fourth time in five games. New York won in regulation at home for the first time since Nov. 12. The Islanders were 2-6-4 in their previous 12 games at Nassau Coliseum.
Poulin stopped 13 of 15 shots after replacing Nabokov at 12:54 of the first. Nabokov made seven saves on eight shots. Poulin will likely be back in the net Tuesday night when the Islanders begin a six-game trip at Toronto.
Dallas built its 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Jamie Benn and Erik Cole, but Lehtonen couldn’t make the margin stick. He allowed seven goals on 43 shots.
“That’s probably the most disappointing (game) of the whole year,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We were outskated. We couldn’t win one-on-one battles. They basically looked how we usually look. Their legs were better. Their energy level was better. Their puck management was better. That might have been our worst game of the year.
“It was a team giveaway.”
After Strome opened the scoring for the Islanders, New York tied it on a goal by Tavares 7:29 into the second. The Islanders took a 3-2 lead just two minutes later on Regin’s second of the season.
Valeri Nichushkin then tied it for Dallas by scoring on a power play. But Brock Nelson capped off a frenetic second period by scoring with 28 seconds left to put the Islanders back on top 4-3.
Tavares completed his hat trick by scoring at the 6:19 and 16:53 of the third period.
Jamie Benn opened the scoring for Dallas 5:01 in, putting a backhander past Nabokov, but shortly after, Nabokov was forced to leave the game, and Poulin yielded the Stars’ second tally almost instantly when Cole coaxed a soft backhander in from just shy of the blue line.
The Stars will remain in the tri-state area this week, visiting the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, and the New York Rangers on Friday before hosting the Islanders on Sunday.
NOTES: New York forward Kyle Okposo missed the game due to the birth of his first child. … Vanek had two assists to extend his point streak to nine games. … The Stars activated defencemen Trevor Daley and Sergei Gonchar from the injured list before the game. Daley had missed 14 games with a lower body injury. Gonchar sat out five because of concussion symptoms.