Tavares, Islanders beat Maple Leafs 6-3
TORONTO (AP) — John Tavares hopes a goal in his home town helps him break out of a slump.
Tavares was one of six New York Islanders to score in a 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night for a split in a home-and-home set.
“I just need to produce,” said Tavares, who entered the night with just one goal in his last 10 games. “Have to find a way to get the puck in the net, whether it’s me, my opportunities or creating more for my line mates.”
Brock Nelson, Frans Nielsen, Nikolay Kulemin, Matt Martin and Anders Lee also scored for the Islanders (20-12-5). Thomas Greiss turned aside 30 shots.
Jonathan Bernier again had trouble, getting beaten by the second shot of the game and giving up six goals on just 15 shots through the two periods before James Reimer took over to start the third.
“I don’t think I was ready. I wasn’t good enough tonight,” Bernier said. “Wasn’t my game, I wasn’t good and I just have to be better next game.”
Brad Boyes, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and Shawn Matthias had goals for the Maple Leafs (13-15-7), who beat New York 3-1 on Sunday at Barclays Center.
Reimer, who was making his first appearance in net since missing seven games with a groin injury, made six saves.
Leafs coach Mike Babcock thought about turning to Reimer earlier, but was cautious because he didn’t want to send in a cold goalie under what he considered terrible ice conditions.
“The ice was so bad tonight, nothing like we’ve ever seen,” said Babcock. “I was scared of his groin. I went to him in between (periods) to make sure. You wanna give him time to warm up. ... that’s what the thought process was.”
Nelson put New York ahead 1-0 when he cut to the middle of the slot and beat Bernier with a low wrist shot two minutes into the game.
The Islanders’ lead didn’t last long, as Boyes scored 39 seconds later when he picked up a rebound at the top of the crease and put it past a sprawling Greiss.
The Leafs controlled the pace of play after Boyes’ goal, but New York restored its advantage when Josh Bailey put a slap-pass toward the front of the net that an open Tavares re-directed over Bernier’s blocker at 11:51. It was just the fourth shot Bernier had faced up to that point.
“Obviously it’s a lot of fun when you come back home and you have a lot of friends and family. You want to play well, you grew up here, you want to play hard,” Tavares said. “Obviously I have some good memories here so you just try to build on those.”
Nick Leddy found a speeding Nielsen to make it 3-1 New York at 17:45. After taking a pass from Leddy at Toronto’s blue line, Nielsen blew by a flat-footed Dion Phaneuf and beat Bernier five-hole with a backhand.
“I wasn’t able to make the big save, especially in the first on the breakaway and that could have changed the game,” said Bernier.
Parenteau cut New York’s lead in half with a wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle that beat Greiss low blocker side at 10:57.
Any chance for momentum was halted, however, when Bernier gave the puck away behind his net and Kulemin was gifted an open look to make it 4-2 only 28 seconds later.
Bernier was given a subtle cheer from the home crowd when he stopped New York’s 13th shot of the game, but he was beaten on the 14th by Martin with less than two minutes to play in the second.
Making matters worse for the struggling net-minder, Lee also beat Bernier with his club’s very next shot to make it 6-2 with 39 seconds to play in the period.
Babcock challenged the goal for goalie interference, but couldn’t get it overturned and lost his timeout in the process.
Matthias added a late goal for Toronto, beating Greiss glove side from the slot at the 16-minute mark of the third.
NOTES: Leafs defenseman Matt Hunwick was back in the lineup after sitting out Sunday with an illness. ... Leafs blue liner Jake Gardiner picked up his 100th career point with an assist on Boyes’ goal. ... Former Leafs prospect Christopher Gibson, who played 45 games last season for the AHL Marlies, backed up Greiss with Jaroslav Halak still out (upper-body)