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Tavares, Isles enjoy Joy of Six in Toronto

Captain Snaps Out of Scoring Funk as New York Cruises Past Leafs

December 30, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Toronto native John Tavares made the most of his homecoming Tuesday night, scoring a goal and adding an assist in the Islanders’ 6-3 victory over the Maple Leafs. AP Photo
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A little home cooking may have provided the perfect remedy for John Tavares’ recent scoring woes.

The Islanders’ team captain made the most of New York’s first visit of the season to his native Toronto on Tuesday night, scoring the go-ahead goal and adding an assist in a 6-3 victory over the Maple Leafs in front of 19,899 fans at the Air Canada Centre.

“It’s a lot of fun when you come back home,” admitted Tavares, who had managed just one goal over his previous 10 contests and none in his past five before giving New York a 2-1 lead midway through the opening period off assists from Josh Bailey and Anders Lee.

The 25-year-old center from Mississauga, Ontario was one of six goal-scorers for the Islanders (20-12-5, 45 points), who used some new line combinations en route to getting at least one tally from each of the four sets coach Jack Capuano put together following Sunday’s disappointing 3-1 loss to Toronto at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

“We did a lot of really good things tonight,” said Capuano, who saw his team leap a point ahead of the East River rival Rangers for sole possession of second place in the Metropolitan Division standings.

“I thought we played extremely well,” he added. “We just want to maintain what we do. We moved the puck, we moved our feet and tonight I thought we did a good job in the offensive zone.”

Brock Nelson, Frans Nielsen, Nikolay Kulemin, Matt Martin and Lee also had goals for New York, which will be in Buffalo on New Year’s Eve seeking its third victory in four games following a three-game slide.

Thomas Greiss made 30 saves for New York, which was outshot 33-21, but chased Toronto netminder Jonathan Bernier by scoring on all but nine of its first 15 shots on goal.

“We just scored on our chances,” noted Nielsen, who gave the Islanders a 3-1 lead with 2:15 left in the opening stanza on his 13th goal of the campaign.

“This is the strength of our team, [it’s] our depth,” he added. “It’s good to see. We have been getting scoring from all four lines this year. I think we responded well to [Capuano’s line changes]. We have such a deep team.”

Tavares’ team-high 14th goal and two-point night gave him a team-best 27 points through 34 games this season. He has accumulated 19 points in 12 career games in Toronto, more than any player in the league since he entered the NHL in 2009.

But the Isles’ undisputed leader on the ice knows that he must continue to pile up tallies and assists if he hopes to find himself back in the Hart Trophy (MVP) conversation and, more importantly, thrust New York into the sphere of teams vying for the Stanley Cup come mid-April.

“I expect a lot more out of myself,” admitted Tavares. “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 … You just keep working through it, and as a group we are working hard and finding ways to win.”

Isle Have Another: The Islanders’ penalty kill remains the best in the league at 87.7 percent, and is on an historic run. New York has killed off 35 consecutive man advantages, including four Tuesday in Toronto, over a franchise-record 15 games. “It’s our second year here together with [assistant coach Greg Cronin] and we’re kind of figuring out what he wants us to do [on the penalty kill] and our routes,” Nielsen said on the Islanders’ website. “We’re working hard, sacrificing and hopefully we can keep it going.” … Following Thursday’s visit to Buffalo, the Isles will be in Pittsburgh on Saturday before returning Downtown Sunday evening at 5 p.m., to host the Dallas Stars at Barclays Center … While they matched their season high in goals Tuesday, the Isles also got points recorded by 13 players, including every forward in the lineup except Kyle Okposo … For once, it was the opposition’s ice that was in poor shape after many visiting players have commented on the conditions of the playing surface at Barclays Center. “The ice was so bad tonight, nothing like we’ve ever seen,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said after Tuesday’s game.


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