UNIONDALE, N.Y. – John Tavares had three goals, including the tiebreaking tally in the third period, and added an assist for the New York Islanders, who beat the New York Rangers 4-2 and gave goalie Evgeni Nabokov a win in his return to the NHL on Saturday night.
The Islanders have won three straight following an opening-night loss and they have Tavares to thank for the past two.
After the young forward had two goals and two assists in the first period of New York's 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday, Tavares roared back with a pair of go-ahead, power-play goals and his second straight four-point game in front of a sellout crowd that traded cheers for both teams.
The second goal was a precision tip-in of captain Mark Streit's shot from the blue line 3:30 into the third, completing a play that started when he won a faceoff.
Linemate Matt Moulson also scored for the Islanders, who will hit the road for the first time when they play at Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Tavares finished his hat trick by scoring into an empty net with 1:03 remaining.
The Rangers got back on the ice for the first time since going 0-0-2 in Sweden, playing for the first time in a week, and the rust showed early when the Islanders dominated the first period.
Nabokov got the best of Rangers counterpart Henrik Lundqvist and earned his first regular-season NHL win since beating Phoenix on April 10, 2010, with San Jose.
Nabokov finally suited up for the Islanders after declining to join the team last season after being claimed on waivers following a stint in Russia's KHL.
The early momentum the Islanders generated in the first shifted to the Rangers just over 6 minutes into the second when they turned a giveaway in the neutral zone into a goal.
Brad Richards, the Rangers' prized free-agent acquisition, fired a pass from his blue line to streaking linemate Gaborik deep in the Islanders' end.
Gaborik was all alone when he took the puck on his tape and smoothly put it past Nabokov for his second goal this season at 6:23.
Richards was given a lucrative deal from the Rangers with the hope that his playmaking skills would mesh with Gaborik's touch.
So far, so good, as Richards has assisted on both of Gaborik's goals.
But the good fortune didn't last for long as the Rangers couldn't get undisciplined play out of their game.
With 56 seconds in a power play, that came shortly after the tying goal, captain Ryan Callahan was called for goalie interference. While the Rangers were killing off that penalty, Brian Boyle went off for delay of game as he tried to keep the puck under him down in the corner.
That gave the Islanders 44 seconds of a two-man advantage, an edge they turned into the go-ahead goal while skating 5-on-4.
Tavares was denied by Lundqvist at the right post when his jam shot in tight was deflected over the glass, but he wouldn't be kept at bay. Less than a minute later, Tavares got to a rebound and made it 2-1 at 11:47.
The Islanders seemed poised to carry a one-goal lead into the third period, just as they did after the first, but Prust got a little lucky and got the Rangers even again.
Prust, playing in his 200th NHL game, carried the puck behind the net and centered it in front. The puck banked into the net off the left skate of Islanders forward Frans Nielsen with 1:34 left in the second.
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead 12:04 in when Tavares' pass was deflected to Moulson, who snapped in his second goal in two games.
NOTES: The Islanders were 1 for 6 on the power play in the first 40 minutes and 2 for 8 overall. ... Islanders LW Trevor Gillies (groin) was activated from the injured list. ... D Jeff Woywitka made his debut with the Rangers in place of D Michael Sauer, who sat out because of a sprained right shoulder.