New York Post
Denied up north
Isles fall to Leafs for 9th loss in 10 games
TORONTO — Desperately in need of a win, the Islanders’ playoff prospects are in an even stickier situation as William Nylander had two goals and two assists to lead the Maple Leafs past Lane Lambert’s slumping crew, 5-2, on Monday night.
John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Calle Jarnkrok and Auston Matthews also scored and Justin Holl had two assists for Toronto, which is 3-0-1 in its last four and 6-2-1 in its last nine. Ilya Samsonov had 31 saves.
Anders Lee scored twice for the Islanders in their ninth loss in 10 games (1-6-3). Ilya Sorokin had 33 saves.
The Maple Leafs trailed 1-0 after one period and coach Sheldon Keefe tweaked his top-six forward group during the first intermission, reuniting Tavares and Nylander, and slotting Mitch Marner alongside Matthews.
“I don’t think a lot had to
be said [in the intermission] other than pointing out the obvious, but it’s on the players,” Keefe said. “They did the talking and, more importantly, just came out on the ice way more focused.”
Toronto tied it at 5:07 of the second when Nylander scored off the rush after a nice play from Tavares.
“We decided to battle and compete a little bit more,” Nylander said of the team’s play in the second period. “That’s what took over the game.”
Lee put the Islanders back ahead 1:10 later on a onetimer that fooled Samsonov for his 17th.
Toronto tied it on a power play at 7:53 when Samsonov caught the Islanders on a long change with a stretch pass. Nylander quickly fed Tavares, who moved in alone and backhanded his 21st goal of the season upstairs against his former team.
“I wasn’t expecting it, to be honest,” Tavares said of Samsonov’s quick strike. “Happy I got back onside because he sends it up there quickly.”
Keefe had a lot of praise for Tavares’ play in the second period.
“Best period John Tavares has played all season,” Keefe said. “That got Willie going. Willie finished the chances and Willie was good. But I thought J.T. was excellent.”
The Leafs, who lost 3-2 in overtime to the Islanders here on Nov. 21, then took their first lead 1:40 later when Nylander used a delicate flip pass to send Jarnkrok in alone to score his 11th.
Sorokin stopped Michael Bunting’s penalty shot later in the period, but Nylander buried his second of the night and 26th overall with 3:28 left in the middle period after stealing the puck from Scott Mayfield in the offensive zone.
Matthews sealed the win with his 25th at 7:44 of the third on a breakaway off a pass from Holl.
“Our details and our awareness cost us,” Lambert said. “We’ve got to just absolutely get past that and clean it up.”
The Islanders opened the scoring with 22.2 seconds left in the first when Lee swatted home a loose puck in the crease for his 16th after Brock Nelson’s shot glanced off the Samsonov’s shoulder and hit the post.
The Toronto goaltender was sharp on a number of chances earlier in the period, including a terrific blocker stop at full stretch on Casey Cizikas.