Islanders star Tavares gets harsh introduction to playoffs

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John Tavares has strong credentials.

After being the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, the New York Islanders center broke into the NHL right away, has missed just three games in his four seasons, has 112 goals and 249 points.

Then came his playoff debut.

The Islanders' top-line center was held to no points and no shots and found himself being pummeled in a 5-0 loss Wednesday against the Penguins in Game 1 of the opening-round series.

Tavares claimed he was not surprised by the level of play in his first postseason game.

"Not really. Just a lot of emotion, a lot of adrenaline, excitement," he said Thursday after New York practiced at Consol Energy Center.

Perhaps he wasn't caught off guard, but Tavares was the target on a fair number of the Penguins' 36 hits, so he was caught not getting out of the way or standing up to the physical punishment.

"There wasn't much room out there," he said.

"It's part of the playoffs. You're just trying to work through it. I'm not worried about that."

His coach might be, just a little.

"John's going to get a lot of attention," Jack Capuano said. "All the guys are going to get a lot of attention. They're going to play hard on your skill, especially elite players. That's what playoffs are.

"I don't think it's any surprise to John that they were hard on the puck and he didn't get many chances. You can talk about John and how they played him, but the surrounding support for him needs to be better."

The Islanders were credited with 41 hits, six more than the Penguins, but it was the Penguins who seemed to benefit more from physical play.

New York hopes to correct that equation in Game 2 tonight.

"It's one of their strengths -- getting in on the forecheck and finishing their hits," New York winger Matt Moulson said of the Penguins, who drafted him in 2003.

"We have to do the same and match their intensity. There was too much puck-watching."

And maybe a little too much picking themselves up off of the ice.

"Everybody's got to be physical," Capuano said. "We definitely have to be harder on the puck. We got outmuscled in certain situations."

Tavares is ready to, well, maybe not lead the charge, but help set that tone in Game 2.

"I try to be physical myself. I tried to finish some hits," said Tavares, who had three hits after averaging less than one a game during the season.

"That's part of the playoffs. They're going to be physical on me. Sometimes, that kind of gets you going, gets the blood going a little bit, gets you a little [ticked] off just trying to fight through that stuff. We have guys who are playing physical, and we still think we can be more physical as well.

"I need to use my body, win my battles, create more time and space."

A little offense from Tavares, who led the Islanders with 47 points in 48 games in the regular season, would help, too. Game 1 was the first time since April 5, 2012, that he was held without a shot.

Capuano craves a goal or two that comes from desperation around the net, something opportunistic or on a rebound.

He cited the first of Pascal Dupuis' two goals for the Penguins in Game 1 as an example. Dupuis scored from the slot after a long, mad scramble.

Tavares wants to see that kind of play all over the ice.

"I think at times we weren't as hard or as aggressive as we've been lately," Tavares said.

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For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com and Twitter @pgshelly.


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