Blake Comeau and Michael Grabner each had a goal while Matt Moulson added three assists for the Islanders, who snapped a three-game skid. Rick DiPietro made 40 saves in the win.
Tavares’ hat trick was the second of his career as his first came in a loss to Florida on October 23.
“It was one of those special games for him,” said New York head coach Jack Capuano about Tavares. “He had three and had a chance for four. As good as he was offensively tonight, he was that much better at the defensive end. He’s just a really special talent out there. He’s been working hard and hard work pays dividends.”
Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek each had a goal and an assist while Jochen Hecht scored the other goal for the Sabres, who had won three of four coming in. Ryan Miller allowed all five goals on 37 shots.
“The second period was a disaster for us,” said Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff. “We had no coverage in front of the net tonight. Two or three goals came off rebounds. We gave this game away.”
After a scoreless first period, the Sabres took a 1-0 lead just 17 seconds into the second on the power play. Vanek lost control of the puck trying to skate through the middle, but it went to Ennis, who fired it back down to Vanek for the easy redirect.
Tavares, though, scored three times over a six-minute span to give the Islanders the lead.
The first game at the 7:50 mark when P.A. Parenteau sent a pass from behind the net to the front where Tavares kicked it from his skate to his stick and snapped it home.
Just 2 1/2 minutes later, a Moulson shot from the right point was stopped, but Tavares was in front to backhand home the rebound.
Tavares completed the hat trick with 6:24 to play in the second when he banged the puck in from the left side off a redirected shot from Moulson for a 3-1 lead.
It was a 4-1 game two minutes later as Josh Bailey pass on the rush from the right circle went to the front where it hit off the skate of Comeau and slid into the net.
Buffalo made it a two-goal game at the 5:55 mark of the third. A Jordan Leopold shot from the right point went wide, but it hit off the backboards and headed to the left circle where Ennis slammed it home.
Grabner, though, sealed the win with a shorthanded goal with 3:08 to play while Hecht’s goal inside of two minutes to play accounted for the final score.
The Islanders host the Devils on Monday…The Sabres head back home to face Montreal on Tuesday…This was the first meeting between the clubs this season. The season-series has been split the past three seasons…Buffalo went 2-for-5 on the power play while New York was 1-for-3.