NEW YORK (AP) Islanders coach Jack Capuano had been waiting for captain John Tavares to break out of his scoring slump, and that patience paid off Monday night.
Tavares had two primary assists 43 seconds apart in the first period of a 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. The assists on New York’s second and third goals were the first for Tavares since a 3-1 win against Philadelphia on Nov. 25, a stretch of 12 games.
During that span, he scored three goals.
“It was just a matter of time,” Capuano said. “He got rewarded.”
The top pick in the 2009 draft leads New York in goals (13) and is second in assists (12) and points (25).
“I know I need to be a lot better,” Tavares said. “I’ve been feeling a lot better, more like my game.”
New York snapped its three-game losing streak and improved to 19-11-5. The Islanders also passed the idle New York Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Jaroslav Halak made 27 saves to pace New York. Cal Clutterbuck, Travis Hamonic, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Matt Martin scored for the Islanders.
“I’m just trying to make plays,” Tavares said. “I’ve had some good games in this stretch and just haven’t gotten rewarded.”
Anaheim dropped to 12-15-5 with its third loss in five games. Carl Hagelin and Josh Manson had goals for the NHL’s lowest-scoring team.
“You feel like you’re not going to score,” Ryan Getzlaf said. “We have to be mentally stronger.”
Frederik Andersen allowed three New York goals on 11 shots in the first period and was replaced by John Gibson before the start of the second. Gibson finished with 18 saves.
“His decision,” Andersen said of coach Bruce Boudreau opting to make the goaltending change.
New York swept the season series. The Islanders beat the Ducks 4-1 on Nov. 13.
Hagelin put Anaheim on the board 6:52 into the game with his third of the season. The sequence began with Hagelin attempting a shot that was blocked by Calvin de Haan, but Hagelin found the loose puck and snapped a quick shot that beat Halak.
Anaheim had a lead, but New York ended the period scoring three straight goals in a 5-minute span. To a man, the Islanders pointed to Martin’s fight with Manson, after the Anaheim defenseman threw a thunderous check into New York defenseman Nick Leddy and Ducks center Ryan Kesler.
“It was the right thing to do,” Capuano said of Martin. “He steps up. … It gave us momentum.”
And the Islanders took advantage.
Clutterbuck equalized at 14:54 with his seventh of the season. He walked along the goal line before firing a shot that Anderson could not stop.
New York went ahead with a minute left in the period on Hamonic’s second of the season, and extended its lead to 3-1 on Nelson’s wrist shot from the slot with 16.3 seconds left.
Manson’s second of the season 7:32 into the third cut the deficit to 3-2. But Bailey’s goal 2:03 later allowed New York to regain its two-goal advantage. Martin’s empty-netter with 2:33 left ended the scoring.
“You get some goals and it does wonders for you,” Tavares said. “We got some chances and a few goals. We were able to settle in.”
NOTES: The Ducks did not hold a morning skate at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Boudreau said the thinking was the Ducks’ normal game-day routine would be affected by multiple bus trips to and from the team hotel to Barclays. … Boudreau also said Gibson will start Tuesday night at the New York Rangers. That game marks Hagelin’s first against the Rangers since being traded to the Ducks at the NHL draft on June 27 for Emerson Etem and a second-round pick. … New York scratched Eric Boulton, Kyle Okposo and Marek Zidlicky. Anaheim’s scratches were Max Friberg and Clayton Stoner. … Nate Thompson served the third of his three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk in Anaheim’s 5-1 loss on Dec. 11. … The Islanders are off until Dec. 27 due to the NHL’s Christmas break. … Attendance was 13,578.