William Nylander powers Maple Leafs over struggling Islanders
Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Michael Bunting (58) is awarded a penalty shot as he taken down by New York Islanders defenceman Alexander Romanov (28) in front of Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Monday Jan. 23, 2023. Bunting did not score on the penalty shot. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, January 23, 2023 10:10PM EST
William Nylander had two goals and two assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the slumping New York Islanders 5-2 on Monday night.
John Tavares, with a goal and an assist, Calle Jarnkrok and Auston Matthews also scored for Toronto (29-11-8), which got 31 saves — and a key setup — from Ilya Samsonov. Justin Holl added two assists.
Anders Lee had both goals for New York (23-21-5). Ilya Sorokin stopped 33 shots as the Islanders dropped to 1-6-3 over their last 10.
Down 2-1 in the second period, Toronto evened things up 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 the team that drafted him first overall in 2009.
The Leafs, who lost 3-2 in overtime to the Islanders on the same ice 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 a Michael Bunting penalty shot later in the period, but Nylander buried his second of the night and 26th overall at 16:32 after stealing the puck from Scott Mayfield in the offensive zone.
Matthews put things to bed with his 25th at 7:44 of the third on a breakaway off a Holl pass.
New York, which has dropped below the playoff cutline, 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.
Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe tweaked his top-6 forward group during the intermission, reuniting Tavares and Nylander, and slotting Mitch Marner alongside Matthews.
The impact was almost immediate.
Toronto tied it at 5:07 of the second when Nylander ripped his 25th off the rush after a nice play from Tavares, but Lee restored New York's advantage 1:10 later on a one-timer that fooled Samsonov before the home side pushed back.
SAMSONOV ON A RUN
The Russian made his third straight start and fourth straight appearance. Samsonov entered Monday with a 14-4-2 record and a .919 save percentage, while Matt Murray was 11-5-0 with a .911 save percentage as part of Toronto's two-headed goaltending monster. "We're into the second half of the season," Keefe said. "It's important to give guys the opportunities when they've earned it. Matt will be ready when he gets back in."
BRODIE NEARING RETURN
Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie took part in his first on-ice session with teammates since suffering a rib injury earlier this month. Keefe said the blueliner won't be available until at least Friday when Toronto hosts Ottawa. Brodie has been limited to just 28 games in 2022-23 after also suffering an oblique injury in the fall.
BOLDUC DEBUTS; PALMIERI, PELECH RETURN
New York defenceman Samuel Boldoc made his NHL debut. The 22-year-old from Laval, Que., has eight goals and 26 points in 40 AHL games this season. Meanwhile, Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri and blueliner Adam Pelech returned to the lineup after long injury absences.
HOME SWEET SBA
The Leafs opened a season-long five-game homestand and will play nine of their next 10 — a stretch broken up by the all-star break — at Scotiabank Arena. "What I like about it is the playoff-like schedule where you're playing every other day," Toronto defenceman Morgan Rielly said. "It's your chance to put yourself into a rhythm. But there's not a ton of time to get on the ice between games or time to have long practices. If your game isn't tight in the right place, it can be difficult to get there."
Leafs: Host the New York Rangers on Wednesday.
Islanders: Visit Ottawa on Wednesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2023.