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MONTREAL (AP) — The New York Islanders have won three of four since John Tavares returned from a concussion. They’ll look to continue their surge in a matchup with one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Islanders close out a four-game road trip Wednesday night when they open a home-and-home series with the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
Tavares recorded his first career hat trick Friday in a 4-3 loss to Florida, which snapped the Islanders’ three-game winning streak.
“It doesn’t mean a lot. We didn’t get the two points,” Tavares said of his performance. “We just have to keep moving forward and get a little sharper.”
The Islanders (4-2-2) have been a surprise with their solid start after earning 79 points last season, third fewest in the conference.
A big reason for the turnaround has been Tavares, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2009. He has seven points in his last four games.
“He’s good around the net,” coach Scott Gordon said. “It’s one thing to be there but to battle and compete and outmuscle players is another. He’s a great example of it.”
Tavares has helped spark a team that’s among the league leaders in goals with 26. P.A. Parenteau leads the Islanders with a career-high nine points, and offseason acquisition James Wisniewski is tied for second in the league among defensemen with eight points.
Montreal (5-2-1) is tied with Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay for the conference lead and has won four of five, allowing an average of 22 shots on goal during that stretch. The Canadiens are coming off a 3-2 overtime victory over Phoenix on Monday.
“It’s no secret that we have a great defense,” goaltender Carey Price, who has started all eight games, told the team’s official website. “We spent the first few games getting synched up and lately we’ve been enjoying an amazing collective effort by all playing the same system and the same game.
“It’s a league that anyone can win in right now, so I just want to keep playing as much as I can and stay in my groove.”
Montreal got a goal from each member of its top line of Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri against the Coyotes. Kostitsyn scored in overtime for his third goal in two games.
“I was excited coming into this year about our line,” Cammalleri said. “I thought that as a group we played with a lot of different combinations last year, not knowing one another, and by the end of the year I felt like us three kind of settled in and found ways to complement one another.
“I’m a big, big believer that the longer you stay together and the more chemistry you can build the more dynamic you can be offensively.”
Montreal took three of four from New York last season, outscoring the Islanders 14-6.
The teams meet again Friday at Nassau Coliseum.
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