William Nylander powers Toronto Maple Leafs over struggling New York Islanders | TSN

William Nylander powers Toronto Maple Leafs over struggling New York Islanders |  TSN
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TORONTO — Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was not happy.

Neither were his players.

Toronto sleepwalked through Monday’s opening 20 minutes – lucky to only trail 1-0 against a struggling opponent.

“No life, no energy, no pace, no execution,” Keefe said.

A change in mindset and a big step forward triggered 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 fight and compete a little 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 layup — from Ilya Samsonov. Justin Holl added two assists.

After the disastrous first time around, Keefe shook up his top-6 forward group, reuniting Nylander and Tavares and Matthews with Mitch Marner.

The effect was immediate.

“I don’t think much needed to be said (at halftime) other than to point out the obvious, but that’s on the players,” Keefe explained. “They talked and, more importantly, just came out on the ice 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 in their last 10.

“Our details and our awareness cost us,” head coach Lane Lambert said. “We simply have to get past it 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 didn’t do anything good out there in the first,” Nylander said of switching places with Marner. “Getting boosters going.”

Lee restored New York’s advantage 1:10 later, but the home team pushed back on a power play at 7:53 when Samsonov caught the Islanders on a long shift 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 didn’t expect it, to be honest,” Tavares said of Samsonov’s quick punch. “Glad I came back in because he’s sending it up quickly.”

Keefe said that while Nylander’s named topped the scoring charts, Tavares deserved just as much credit.

“Best season John Tavares has had all season,” Keefe said. “It got Willie going. Willie finished the chances and Willie was good. But I thought JT was excellent.”

“He was buzzing,” Nylander added of Toronto’s captain.


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 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 well for us all year and just attacking offensively and wreaking 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 points, but is not headed to next week’s NHL game in Florida.

“We have 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.

“I’m just glad to see them go.”

New York, which has dipped below the playoff mark, opened the scoring with 22.2 seconds left in the first when Lee knocked home a loose puck for his 16th.

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

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

“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. “Looks very comfortable.”


New York defenseman 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 outfielder Kyle Palmieri and defenseman Adam Pelech returned to the lineup after long injury absences.


Leafs: Host the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

Islanders: Visit Ottawa on Wednesday.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 23, 2023.


Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

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