Tavares forced overtime with a somewhat lucky goal moments after a power play expired and then scored a magnificent unassisted winner with 1:55 left in the extra period to lead the Islanders to a 3-2 victory Friday night.
The Islanders, who are in second place in the Eastern Conference, rallied twice from one-goal deficits in ending a two-game losing streak. And it was no surprise that their best player was the difference.
"We're a different team than we've been in the last few years," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "This was different. I could feel that we were coming back. I could feel that we were generating the play. It was just a matter of time. Fortunately, it was overtime. John made a great play, made a great shot and that was it. That's what he does. He's a great player."
Tavares stole the puck from defenseman Adam Larsson near the corner behind the Devils' net, quickly turned and roared into the right circle, snapping a shot over the shoulder of rookie Keith Kinkaid, who stopped 28 shots.
"I stripped him (Larsson), then made a move toward the net," Tavares said. I first looked and saw (Calvin) de Haan and thought I might get it to him, but I turned toward the net and hit the corner of the net. It was a nice goal. I felt like we were right there. I wasn't expecting that to happen."
Larsson took the blame, saying Tavares got good body position on him.
"That was something I would want again," Kinkaid said of the game-winning goal. "I want to make that save there."
Tavares had tied it at 2 with a power-play goal with 6:13 left in regulation, his 18th of the season.
Kinkaid had expected a shot off the glass behind the net to bounce to his left. It went right -- right to Tavares behind the goal line, and he banked the puck into the net off the back of the goaltender's leg.
"I knew he didn't pick it up right away and I thought I might catch him, so I just stuck with it, shot it and it went in off his leg," Tavares said. "Sometimes, you have to be lucky rather than good. "
Gomez had given the Devils a 2-1 lead with a shot into an empty net thanks in part to a miscue by Halak. The goaltender had the puck on his stick behind the goal line when Adam Henrique caught him off guard, stole it and found Gomez alone in front for a slam dunk.
The Islanders had outplayed the Devils in the first two periods, but trailed 1-0 on a goal by Zajac.
It took only 62 seconds for New York to tie the game in the third period. Tavares won a faceoff in the right circle and the puck found its way toward the left point. De Haan took a slap shot in stride and Bailey, who had missed the last game with an upper-body injury, deflected it into the net.
Zajac gave the Devils the lead at 11:57 of the second period. Zajac took the puck from Kyle Okposo, who was playing without a stick, sent a pass behind the net to Patrik Elias and then took a return pass and beat Halak.
NOTES: Tavares' assist was the 199th of his career. ... This was only Kinkaid's second start in the last 10 games. ... This was the fifth game of a seven-game road trip for New York (3-2). New Jersey is 0-1-2 vs. New York this season. ... Since signing as a free agent on Dec. 20, Gomez has four goals in 20 games.