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Islanders drop 9th of last 10 in 5-2 loss to Maple Leafs

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Tavares Islanders Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing William Nylander (88) celebrates after his goal against the New York Islanders with teammate John Tavares (91) during second-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Ontario, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) — William Nylander had two goals and two assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the slumping New York Islanders 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 New York in its ninth loss in 10 games (1-6-3). Ilya Sorokin had 33 saves.

The Maple Leafs 1-0 after one period and coach Sheldon Keefe tweaked his top-6 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 New York back ahead 1:10 later on a one-timer that fooled Samsonov for his 17th.

Toronto 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,” Islanders coach Lane Lambert said. “We’ve got to just absolutely get past that and clean it up.”

New York 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 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.

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