Bo Horvat pots OT winner as Islanders shake off late collapse, beat Maple Leafs 4-3

Islanders Maple Leafs
Dec 11, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders celebrate their overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Salus-USA TODAY Sports

ELMONT, N.Y. — The New York Islanders are still running into third-period bugs, but they are still finding ways to win.

Bo Horvat lifted home the overtime game-winner 46 seconds into the extra frame to lift the Islanders to a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night at UBS Arena to quickly erase Morgan Reilly’s equalizer for the visitors with 6.4 seconds left in regulation, assisted by former Islander John Tavares’ 1,000th career point.

“It’s a lot better than dragging it out in a shootout or waiting until the very end,” Horvat said. “It was a great win and we’ll be happy with ourselves.”

In the opening seconds of overtime, goaltender Ilya Sorokin’s robbery on Toronto star Auston Matthews — who scored earlier in the night — sparked a 2-on-1 the other way with Mathew Barzal and Horvat. From the left circle, Barzal sent a cross-ice pass to Horvat at the opposite dot where he roofed his chance just inside the right post.

“Honestly, as soon as [Barzal] passed, I just wanted to make sure I got it up over his pad and tried to get the top part of the net and,” Horvat said of his winner. “Thankfully, I put it in the right spot.”

The Islanders scored three goals in 11:10 between the first and second periods behind Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas, and Kyle Palmieri while pulling out their second consecutive overtime victory. Nelson and Palmieri recorded two points while defenseman Noah Dobson added three assists. New York (13-7-7) has won three in a row, five of its last six games, and has recorded at least one point in 12 of its last 13 games despite squandering a 3-1 lead.

Islanders Nelson palmieri
Dec 11, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders center Kyle Palmieri (21) celebrates his goal with New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Salus-USA TODAY Sports

Tavares, who controversially left the team to join the Maple Leafs in the summer of 2018, entered Monday night needing two points to reach 1,000 in his career. He did just that in his old stomping grounds, recording a goal and that assist, which came amidst a last-second barrage of Sorokin’s goal while the Maple Leafs had a 6-on-5 advantage with the goalie pulled.

It was the 11th time this season that the Islanders have given up a third-period lead. 

“I thought we played well, I really did,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said of his team’s effort in the third despite getting outshot 15-4. “They outshot us, there’s no question, but I think if you look back on the 6-on-5, they just threw a barrage of pucks at the net. I didn’t mind our game. I thought we were up, I thought we were on our toes. It was unfortunate that they tied it.”

Matthews put the Maple Leafs in front on the power play — the benefactor of a sizzling set of passes that saw William Nylander find Mitch Marner at the left post, who immediately sent a center pass to the center, who cracked a wrister home 5:50 into the game. 

The early goal sparked the Islanders, though, as they dominated the pace of play for the remainder of the frame and came out of it with a lead. Just 3:30 after Matthews’ opener, Nelson knotted things up for the hosts when he snuck a one-timer while gliding backward through Samsonov.

With 1:27 to go, a Tavares giveaway in the Islanders’ zone sparked a break the other way that ultimately came to Cal Clutterbuck behind the Maple Leafs goal. A centering feed bounced off the skate of Leafs forward Mitch Marner right to Cizikas, who roofed the backhander to put New York ahead. 

Nelson returned the favor to Palmieri, who assisted on his goal, with the primary helper of the Islanders’ third goal of the night to give them a two-goal lead 1:10 into the second period. After chipping the puck around Toronto pressure behind the net, Nelson fed a wide-open Palmieri in front, who beat Samsonov. 

Two of the three Islanders’ goals came off of plays from behind the net.

“It was really something we were doing well,” Palmieri said. “I thought we played well in the offensive zone and getting over the puck and moving it when the double coverage was there and not getting too tied up.”

The Maple Leafs regained momentum down two and halved their deficit 7:43 into the period when Tavares outmuscled Islanders defenseman Robert Bortuzzo in front and tipped a Conor Timmins feed past Ilya Sorokin for career point No. 999.

He picked up No. 1,000 when he tipped a shot from the point into Reilly’s path for the game-tying goal. 

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