NHL

Nylander's 4-point 2nd period leads Maple Leafs over Islanders

William Nylander had two goals and two assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the slumping New York Islanders 5-2 on Monday night.

Toronto captain John Tavares scores, adds an assist against former team in 5-2 win

Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares, right, celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders by hugging teammate William Nylander.
Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares, right, celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders with teammate William Nylander during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Monday Jan. 23, 2023. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe wasn't happy.

Neither were his players.

Toronto sleepwalked through Monday's opening 20 minutes — fortunate to only be down 1-0 against a struggling opponent.

"No life, no energy, no pace, no execution," Keefe said.

A change in mindset and a big move up front sparked a dominant response.

William Nylander had two goals and two assists in the second period as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the slumping New York Islanders 5-2.

"We decided to battle and compete a little bit more," said the winger. "That's what took over the game."

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.

WATCH | Nylander leads Maple Leafs past Islanders:

Maple Leafs defeat Islanders as Nylander leads the way

12 days ago
Duration 1:12
Toronto beats New York 5-2, William Nylander records two goals and two assists in the second period.

Following that disastrous first, Keefe shook up his top-6 forward group, reuniting Nylander and Tavares, and Matthews with Mitch Marner.

The impact was immediate.

"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 explained. "They did the talking and, more importantly, just came out on the ice way more focused."

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.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov makes a save and steers the puck away with his stick.
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov makes a save against the New York Islanders during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Monday Jan. 23, 2023. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

"Our details and our awareness cost us," said head coach Lane Lambert. "We've got to just absolutely get past that and clean it up."

Toronto tied it 1-1 at 5:07 of the second when Nylander ripped his 25th off the rush after a nice play from Tavares.

"We knew we weren't doing anything good out there in the first," Nylander said of switching spots with Marner. "Gets the boosters going."

Lee restored New York's advantage 1:10 later, but the home side pushed back 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.

"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 said that while Nylander's named dotted the scoresheet, Tavares deserved just as much credit.

"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."

'He was buzzing'

"He was buzzing," Nylander added of Toronto's captain.

"Flying."

The Leafs, who lost 3-2 in overtime to the Islanders in November, took their first lead 1:40 later when Nylander used a delicate flip pass to send Jarnkrok in alone to score his 11th on a rolling puck.

"If I don't know where it's going, the goalie probably doesn't know where it's going," Jarnkrok said.

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.

"He's been playing so good for us all year and just attacking offensively and creating havoc," said Matthews, who put things to bed with his 25th goal of the campaign at 7:44 of the third on a breakaway.

Nylander leads Toronto in scoring, but isn't heading to next week's NHL all-star game in Florida.

"We've got two great guys that made the team," he said of Matthews and Marner. "I'm not too worried about it. It would be fun, but they're incredible players.

Samsonov on a run

"I'm just happy to see them go."

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 for his 16th.

Samsonov was sharp on a number of chances earlier in the period, including a terrific blocker save on Casey Cizikas before his teammates regrouped.

"For us to flip the game like that, it's going to take a significant effort," Keefe said. "The players have to be in the right frame of mind to be able to do that. I was really impressed with our team's ability to bounce back and flip the game.

"Really good to see."

The Russian made his third straight start and fourth straight appearance. Samsonov now owns a 15-4-2 record and a .920 save percentage, while Matt Murray is 11-5-0 with a .911 mark. "Excellence," Keefe said of Samsonov's performance Monday. "Looking very comfortable."

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 defenceman Adam Pelech returned to the lineup after long injury absences.

Up next the Leafs Host the New York Rangers on Wednesday as the Islanders visit Ottawa to face the Senators.

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