Isles blast Coytoes, off to best start in 11 years

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders will face plenty of tests as they attempt to make the leap from promising contender to legitimate Stanley Cup threat.

They passed the first one in impressive fashion Tuesday night, when captain John Tavares scored two goals as the Islanders recorded their most lopsided win in almost three years with a 6-1 rout of the Phoenix Coyotes at Nassau Coliseum.

Goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 33 saves for the Islanders, who improved to 2-0-1, their best record through three games since they opened 3-0-0 in 2001-02. On Saturday, the Islanders squandered a two-goal, third period lead in their home opener and lost 3-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a shootout.

"The other night at home, we didn't finish the way that we wanted to finish," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We wanted to play 60 minutes of consistent effort tonight, or close to 60 minutes (to) the best of our ability. And I thought for the most part we did that."

In dismantling the Coyotes, the Islanders continued the maturation process started last year, when they went 11-4-2 in their final 17 games to earn the franchise's first playoff berth in five seasons.

"We played well at the end of last year, holding leads and playing strong late in games," Tavares said. "It would be nice, obviously, to hold every single lead you have. We didn't do it last game, and it was nice (Tuesday) to just kind of keep our foot on the gas and keep the pressure on them and get some goals when we needed to."

The Coyotes outshot the Islanders 34-28, but New York was in complete control after Peter Regin scored 1:49 into the game. The Islanders led 2-0 after one period. The Coyotes pulled within 3-1 with less than eight minutes left in the second period, but the Islanders closed the game with three unanswered goals.

The Islanders last won a game by five or more goals on Feb. 11, 2011, when they beat Pittsburgh 9-3. Of their 26 wins last season -- 24 in the regular season and two in the playoffs -- 17 were by two goals or one.

"It's obviously a little bit more comfortable when you start the third with a four-goal lead," Islanders right winger Colin McDonald said. "After the second, we just talked about it as if it was a 0-0 game and not looking at the scoreboard, Just trying to get better, trying to play the right way and working on those good habits that we always talk about."

McDonald, Matt Donovan and Josh Bailey also scored for the Islanders, who scored twice on the power play -- including a 5-on-3 goal in the first -- and generated their own breaks on several of their even-strength goals.

Regin's goal -- his first in the NHL since Dec. 13, 2011, when he scored for the Ottawa Senators -- came immediately after a Coyotes turnover. Donovan's second-period goal, which was the first of his career, came when his shot from just inside the blue line was slowed by Phoenix goalie Mike Smith before the puck trickled between Smith's legs and into the net.

On his second goal, Tavares appeared to be trying to pass to Michael Grabner, but the puck threaded through a crowd of players in front of the Coyotes' net and past Smith.

In the third period, Grabner chased down a loose puck in front of the Coyotes' net and passed back to Bailey, who engaged in a nifty back-and-forth exchange with Nielsen at the faceoff circles before he fired the puck past backup goalie Thomas Greiss.

"We found some sticks and found a way (into) the back of the net," Capuano said. "Our guys played hard. You get rewarded for that. The harder you work, the luckier you get."

The Coyotes (1-2-0) have plenty of work to do after getting outscored 10-2 while losing the first two games of a season-high, five-game road trip.

"How we're doing things right now is unacceptable," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We didn't do enough to win a game. That's what it's about."

Martin Hanzal scored in the second period for the Coyotes.

Smith was pulled after allowing five goals on 20 shots in the first two periods. Greiss stopped seven of the eight shots he faced.

NOTES: The Islanders scratched D Matt Carkner, D Griffin Reinhart and LW Eric Boulton, while the Coyotes scratched D Chris Summers, D Derek Morris and LW Paul Bissonnette. ... Islanders RW Cal Clutterbuck (leg laceration) resumed practicing Monday and said he hopes to return to the active roster Friday, when the Islanders play the Blackhawks in Chicago. Clutterbuck's leg was cut by a skate during an exhibition game against the Calgary Flames on Sept. 17. ... Bissonnette served the final game of his three-game suspension for his role in the Coyotes' fight with the Los Angeles Kings on Sept. 15. ... Coyotes D Rusty Klesla, who suffered a concussion against the Kings, hopes to make his season debut during the current road trip. ... Prior to Tuesday night, the Islanders and Coyotes last played each other Jan. 7, 2012, when Phoenix won 5-1 in Arizona. The Islanders last hosted the Coyotes on Dec. 18, 2010, when Phoenix eked out a 4-3 shootout win.
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