Tavares helped the Islanders avoid the worst start in franchise history, scoring the clinching shootout goal in the Islanders' 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
"I think he's had an opportunity to watch and see some of the things that go in front of him," Gordon said. "That was one of the reasons why I put him third; to see his approach in the net."
Jeff Tambellini and Frans Nielsen also scored in the shootout to help the Islanders (1-3-3) pick up points for the first time in four games. Andy Sutton, Tim Jackman and Matt Moulson scored in regulation for New York.
Matt Cullen scored in the second period and Eric Staal and Jussi Jokinen got third-period goals to tie the score and help the Hurricanes picked up a point for the first time in the last four games. Jokinen registered Carolina's lone score in the shootout.
Ryan Whitney, playing in his 1,000th career game, assisted on Staal's score. The Hurricanes (2-4-2) dropped to 0-3-1 on the road and 0-2-2 in their last four overall.
"We turned our offensive game on and started to bring some more pressure with our defense and it made the difference," Whitney said.
Tavares beat Carolina goalie Cam Ward (26 saves) on the stick-side to end the game. Nielsen, who was making his season debut after right knee surgery, scored the determining goal.
"I just tried to think back to when I was a kid and there was no pressure," Tavares said. "I got to my forehand and I knew I had to get it up and once I saw it go in, it was a great feeling to secure the win."
The Hurricanes held a 38-29 advantage on shots, including a 30-15 edge after the opening period. Carolina had scored just four goals in the past three games.
"We were scratching and clawing to produce some offense but I thought it started to look like the game we want to play," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said.
Staal and Jokinen helped Carolina erase a two-goal deficit in a 1:04 stretch of the third period to complete a late comeback, scoring back-to-back in tying the score with 4:57 remaining.
Staal completed a give-and-go with Whitney before blasting a right-circle slap shot that made it 3-2. Just more than a minute later, Jokinen's right-post tip-in tied it, marking the second straight game in which the Islanders wasted a lead.
"We were able to come back against Pittsburgh at home and we knew the Islanders had trouble keeping leads," Jokinen said. "We tried to get some confidence and we were able to get the point. But we need wins."
Sutton had his first multipoint game in almost 11 months, adding an assist in helping New York carry a two-goal lead into the third period.
Jackman and Sutton scored less than a minute apart in the second to complement Moulson's team-leading fifth goal. The trio combined to provide the Islanders with a two-goal lead despite Carolina holding a 17-7 shot advantage in the second period.
Whitney became only the 246th player in league history to reach the 1,000-game milestone.
"It was a special milestone for me," the 37-year-old Whitney said. "I didn't come by it easy. I had a couple of stints in the minor and to be able to continue on and get 1,000; that's pretty special."
Moulson helped New York gain a lead 8:11 into the game, scoring a goal for the fourth consecutive game.
Cullen's centering pass from the right post caromed off defenseman Jack Hillen's leg and past goalie Dwayne Roloson (35 saves) at 5:34 of teh second, marking just the Hurricanes' fifth power-play goal in 38 chances.
New York responded by scoring twice in a 49-second span. Jackman broke the tie when he swept a backhand shot that hit off Carolina defender Niclas Wallin and past a prone Ward at 10:32.
As Jackman's goal was being announced to the crowd, Sutton redirected Hillen's pass into the left side of the net for his second goal of the year.
The Islanders received a scare when Andrew Alberts knocked Tavares to the ice with 12:38 remaining. The 19-year-old, selected No. 1 pick in this year's draft, stayed on the ice momentarily after taking the hit following a shot attempt.
Whitney became the fourth player in franchise history to play his 1,000th NHL game with the team. That list includes teammate Rod Brind'Amour, Glen Wesley and Brian Propp, who accomplished the feat as a Hartford Whaler. ... Carolina is 0-2 on a four-game road trip. The club was 19-16-6 away from home last season. ... Nielsen saw regular ice time in his first action since last season, logging 12:44. ... With the win the Islanders avoided setting a franchise record of futility to start a campaign. The 1973-74 team, coming off an expansion year, started 0-3-4. ... The Islanders set a season-low in attendance with an announced crowd of 9,122.