More rest for the weary Leafs
Coach Mike Babcock lets the team take it easy ahead tilt with the Isles.
— Auston Matthews scored twice and Frederik Andersen won his 100th career game as the Toronto Maple Leafs emerged with a 7-1 win and two key points over the surging New York Islanders on Tuesday night.
The Leafs entered the affair just one point up on the Islanders for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, increasing that cushion to three (63 to 60) with the victory. Toronto had dropped six of its previous eight games. The Islanders had scooped up points in 10 of the first 14 games (8-2-2) under interim coach Doug Weight.
Matthews scored his 26th and 27th goals in the win while Andersen stopped 33of-34 shots to capture the milestone victory.
Josh Leivo had a career-high three points (one goal and two assists) in the win, Nazem Kadri and William Nylander also chipped in with two points apiece (goal and assist). Toronto (26-18-11) hit a season-high for goals this season in the win, Tyler Bozak and Matt Hunwick both finding the net as well.
Jason Chimera scored the lone goal for New York (25-20-10). Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube yielded seven goals on 41 shots in defeat.
Starting slow in their previous two games (both losses), the Leafs decided to change up their routine ahead of the game, opting not to hold a morning skate.
“We just thought it was the best thing for us,” head coach Mike Babcock said.
The switch-up spurred the desired result against the Islanders, the Leafs racing out to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Leivo started the scoring just past the midway point of the period, ripping a shot from the top of the left circle past Greiss. The 23-year-old Leivo, scoring his first goal of the season, capitalized when the passing attempt of Islanders defenceman Adam Pelech went astray.
Leivo was getting a chance to play with rookie winger Nikita Soshnikov sidelined. Kadri added to the lead with 32 seconds left in the period, the 26-year-old inadvertently deflecting a Nikita Zaitsev point shot into the empty cage behind Greiss. The goal was Kadri’s first in the past 10 games and 21st of the season.
New York, which won the first two meetings between the teams this season (including a 6-5 overtime defeat one week earlier), had its share of decent opportunities early on, twice hitting posts on shots from Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey.
The Leafs head to Columbus on Wednesday to complete their 13th back-toback of the season. The club is 9-2-2 on the first night and only 4-7-1 on the second.
Maple Leafs winger Matt Martin celebrates a goal as Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss and centre Alan Quine look on in Toronto on Tuesday. The Leafs won the game 7-1.