Tavares fired a shot at Cam Ward that bounced high off the goalie. The Islanders' center, however, batted the rebound out of mid-air, directing it past Ward for the decisive tally -- his second marker of the game.
Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 32-of-33 shots as the Islanders won their third straight game.
Jeff Skinner found the net for Carolina while Ward finished with 38 saves.
The Hurricanes went down to their third loss in four contests.