Islanders’ top line makes it look easy

By Brendan Hall
Globe Correspondent / November 17, 2009

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Before the Islanders’ most recent road trip, Matt Moulson set a record.

Kurt Warner, most consecutive pass completions (26).

The game, of course, was not hockey, but Madden 10 on Xbox 360. And for all the competitive moxie that star rookie center and No. 1 overall pick John Tavares boasts on the ice, Moulson said “you haven’t seen anything yet’’ until you’ve beaten his road roommate at video games. Madden and the NHL games are their current vices, but the latest Call of Duty is next.

“That’s the angriest I’ve ever seen anyone get,’’ Moulson said. “He’s competitive in everything he does. He wants to win in everything, and that’s what makes him so great.’’

Last night, that rivalry within the Islanders’ top forward line of Moulson (two goals), Tavares (goal), and right wing Richard Park (three assists) led to the unit having a hand in New York’s first three goals of its 4-1 victory over the Bruins at the TD Garden. The win put the Islanders at 2-0-2 on a seven-game road trip.

At times, the three made it look easy. New York’s first goal came when Park intercepted a pass at his blue line and pushed it out to defenseman Jack Hillen on the right half-boards. Hillen took the Bruins’ Matt Hunwick wide, and centered to Moulson in front of the net for the finish. The Bruins tied it up late in the second period on a Daniel Paille backhander that crossed the line just before Tavares knocked the net off its pegs, but it was pretty much all New York from then on.

Four minutes after Paille’s goal, Park took a puck off the wall from Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who was trying to kick it out to Zdeno Chara but it got out to Park. He centered to Moulson, and Rask, pressured in front by Tavares, wasn’t able to reach over to the far side in time to glove Moulson’s shot.

Tavares fired a wrist shot from the right circle that deflected in off Hunwick for a 3-1 lead less than two minutes into the final frame.

Plain and simple, the Islanders were the aggressor -- and looked far hungrier -- last night. Players crashed the net hard, and often, and were able to chase down many a loose puck. It was enough that the few Bruins in the locker room during postgame media access were left to chalk it up to a just a flat effort.

“They worked hard, but you know it’s just the plays that we gave them, you know us turning over and not being strong enough on the stick,’’ Paille said. “It’s one of those games, but you know we got to get better and work harder.’’

Said Rask, “It was a tough game for a goalie, because you don’t see that many shots, and then when you do get those shots, you’ve got to be sharp, and I don’t think I was fully there 100 percent.’’

Defensive lapses? Goalie not in synch? Sure. But those in the New York locker room like to believe the net-front hustle and the ensuing chaos it created for Rask had something to do with it, too.

“We know they’re missing some guys, but we’re missing some guys, too,’’ Tavares said. “When you’re able come into a building like this, and they’ve been playing real well defensively, it’s big. Especially the way we started this trip [5-4 shootout loss at Washington Nov. 7].’’

Twenty-one games into his rookie season, Tavares has 19 points (9-10-19), with a current five-game point streak. Moulson has seen enough to make another bold declaration.

“He’s the most talented player I’ve ever played with,’’ Moulson said. “He’s probably one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever played with. He’s been great every game.’’

This time, Moulson was talking about hockey.

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