CALGARY – John Tavares dazzled as the opening act and goaltender Nathan Lawson was brilliant as the unexpected headliner as the New York Islanders continued to roll Monday.
Tavares had two goals and an assist and Lawson made 28 saves in relief of injured starter Rick DiPietro as the Islanders beat the Calgary Flames 5-2.
“It was awesome, that’s all I can say,” said Lawson, a Calgary native who had both friends and family in attendance. “It was better for me that they got lots of shots there. It got me into the game right away.”
Lawson, who was recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League after the Islanders traded Dwayne Roloson to Tampa Bay on Saturday, came on in the second period with New York leading 4-1 after DiPietro left with a lower-body injury.
“A good all-around game for us,” said Tavares. “Great for Lawson to get in there and do his thing, coming in cold. Everyone did their role and we handled the lead well and the pressure when we needed to.”
The Islanders are 7-1-1 over their last nine games, while the Flames had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Matt Moulson also scored twice while Michael Grabner scored New York’s fifth goal into an empty net. New York (12-19-6) has won the first two stops on its five-game road trip, which continues Thursday night in Edmonton.
David Moss scored both goals for Calgary (18-19-3), which got 21 saves from second-string netminder Henrik Karlsson.
Although not he wasn’t credited with the win, it sure felt like a victory for Lawson. He lost in a shootout in his only other NHL start versus Phoenix on Dec. 18.
“It feels good to get a win and get a few games under my belt now,” said the 27-year-old. “It’s a dream come true, I just want to keep rolling with it and prove myself now.”
After the game, DiPietro described as his injury as a “little tweak” and wasn’t sure how long he would be out for—if at all. He will be re-examined on Tuesday. He hurt himself sliding across the crease trying to stop a shot from Jarome Iginla, which whistled off the crossbar.
“I don’t know if a man’s body is supposed to be contorted in those kind of positions,” said DiPietro, who was facing a barrage of pressure during a Flames power play at the time. “I felt a twinge and hopefully it’s nothing serious.”
Islanders’ interim head coach Jack Capuano knows Lawson well, having coached him in the minors.
“I know what a competitor he is and he came in on a power play too, pretty rough go for it there but he accepted the challenge,” said Capuano. “I thought he was square to the puck, played the rebounds pretty well, and he battled for us tonight.”
The Islanders raced out to a 3-1 lead in the first period. Tavares scored the opening goal on a beauty at 3:37 when he cut in front and tucked a backhand under the crossbar.
Moulson doubled the lead at 8:29 and after Moss got one back for Calgary just over three minutes later, Tavares scored his second at 13:25.
Moulson made it 4-1 at 3:06 of the second but Moss again cut the New York lead with his second at 13:22.
Moss had a great chance for the hat trick late in the second period, but Lawson jabbed out his leg to rob the Flames forward from 15 feet out.
Flames head coach Brent Sutter was disappointed with his team’s first 30 minutes.
“At the start of the game, we weren’t assertive, we didn’t respect our opponent enough,” said Sutter. “We tried to play half a game tonight and it didn’t work for us.”
Added Iginla: “We know we didn’t deserve to win that game from the way we started. We got outworked in the first period, beat to pucks, outhustled, made foolish mistakes.
“It’s not a case of taking them lightly, we know they had beat Detroit and were 6-1-1 coming in.”
Notes: The last Calgary backup goalie to get a win at home was Curtis McElhinney versus Edmonton on Dec. 31, 2009. Dating back to the 2005-06 season, Calgary has gotten just five victories at home from Miikka Kiprusoff’s backups. … It was only the second game for DiPietro in the building in which he was taken first overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. … New York RW Blake Comeau (back spasms) did not play.