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Tavares leads Isles to victory

AP

With John Tavares and the rest of the Islanders’ offense 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.

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,” New York 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 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.

The Islanders recalled goalie Anders Nilsson from Bridgeport of the AHL later Monday night.

With the hosts 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.”

Blue Jackets 4, Rangers 3 (SO)

In New York, Sergei Bobrovsky made 40 saves through overtime and two more in the shootout in his first action in over a month, and Brandon Dubinsky had a goal and assist against his former team as Columbus beat the Rangers.

Bobrovsky stopped Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash in the tiebreaker, and Mark Letestu and Ryan Johansen scored against Henrik Lundqvist to win it.

Brian Boyle cut the deficit to 3-2 at 4:53 of the third, and Lundqvist made 36 saves through overtime for New York, which had won three of four on the road before returning home.

Canadiens 2, Panthers 1

In Montreal, Brian Gionta scored the winner in the second period and Carey Price stopped 26 shots to lead the Canadiens over Florida.

David Desharnais also had a goal for Montreal.

Flames 4, Avalanche 3

In Denver, Jiri Hudler and Joe Colborne had a goal and assist each, and Mike Cammalleri scored a power-play goal at 16:30 of the third to lift Calgary.

Sean Monahan also scored and Karri Ramo stopped 22 shots for the Flames, who broke out of an offensive slump to end a four-game skid.