February 12, 2011

Mr. 700: Tavares Hits Mark, And Then Some, As Buffalo Coasts to Win over Philly

by Alex Lee | NLL.com

More NLL Week 6 Coverage:

* Edmonton Sweeps Weekend Series with Washington
* Blue Cross Curse Over, Knighthawks Win Second Straight
* Rock Tops Riggers in Battle of Division Leaders
* Blazers Top Mammoth in Penalty-Marred Game
* Rush Notches First Win of Season

* Floor Pass: Game Previews, Audio
* Dan Carey: 'All I've Wanted to Do is Play'
* Notebook: Bandits Find Formula for Success at Gate

Buffalo's John Tavares, the NLL's all-time leading scorer, notched his 700th career goal and showed no signs of slowing with a five-goal performance against Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA -- John Tavares scored his 700th NLL goal to help the Buffalo Bandits (4-2) dominate the Philadelphia Wings (3-4), 16-7, Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Tavares' fingerprints were all over the Bandits' performance. He scored five goals on the night (704 total), added four assists and displayed the smarts and toughness that has enabled the 42-year-old to remain effective 20 years into his NLL career.

Both coaches praised Tavares after the game.

"You run out of words to describe John Tavares. He is amazing," said Bandits coach Darris Kilgour. "He deserves everything he gets. He is the hardest worker in the game and he might be the smartest guy in the game."

Philadelphia coach John Tucker went even further in lauding Tavares' talents.

"He is just a phenomenal guy and player and just a joy to watch. I think everyone appreciates the level of ability he has," he said. "He is not the biggest guy or the fastest, but he is probably the smartest I have ever seen."

Tavares was one of many Bandits who had big nights on offense. Mark Steenhuis, who will start for the East All Stars, had 2 goals and 6 assists on the night. Bandits' forwards Tracey Kelusky (3g, 4a) and Chad Culp (4g, 3a) added additional punch for the Buffalo offense that has now scored 16 and 15 goals in their last two contests.

"I think we're just starting to get going," said Kilgour. "We're shooting a lot better. We're creating a little bit more and working more as a team. We got a lot of new guys and it took a little time to work out."

The Bandits' players and coaches were giddy after the big win and the ageless Tavares was the reason why. Tavares, now the only 700 goal scorer in NLL history, was his usual modest self after the win, showing why he is so respected around the league.

"700, 699, not much of a difference. The biggest thing is we got the win," he said. "It wouldn't have meant anything if we hadn't of gotten the win. It was nice to get it out of the way. I just didn't want to think about it and luckily I scored early in the game so I didn't have to worry about it."

The first half of the game was tight with each team going on scoring runs of at least three goals. Buffalo took a 7-5 lead into halftime. The first half was extremely physical and it was obvious that there was some bad blood between the teams.

The second half was a different story. Buffalo put the game out of reach, dominating play and outscoring Philadelphia 9-1 in the half. As the score got out of hand in the fourth quarter, tensions began to rise until two guys inevitably dropped the gloves. The fight was the only part of the game Philadelphia won, as Wings' defenseman Paul Dawson dropped the Bandits' Travis Irving with two punches.

Neither team will have much time to cool down. The teams face off again next week when the Wings travel to Buffalo to play the Bandits on Saturday night at HSBC Arena at 7:30pm ET.

With two games separating the first place Toronto Rock (5-2) from the last place Wings (3-4) in the East, each interdivision game is even more pivotal.

"We will respond and play better than we did tonight," Tucker said. "We're all disappointed with our effort. We know that this is a streaky league. We lost 2, won 3 and now we're back to a 2 game losing streak. All we need is 1 win in Buffalo to turn it around."

The Bandits' Kilgour was adamant that his team must stay focused coming off these last two big wins.

"Everything in the division is very tight. We can't give these games away," he said. "We know they're going to be ready to come back. No one likes to get embarrassed on their own floor. They're going to come in next week looking for some payback so we have got to be ready."

Philadelphia forwards Athan Iannucci (2g, 3a), Drew Westervelt (2g) and Alex Turner (2g, 1a) each added two goals apiece for the Wings in the loss.

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