Reuniting William Nylander and John Tavares worked well on Monday and the Toronto Maple Leafs hope the success continues Wednesday night against the visiting New York Rangers.
Nylander had two goals and two assists — all in the second period — and the Maple Leafs opened a five-game homestand with a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders.
Tavares had a goal and an assist while Calle Jarnkrok, the other player on the line, also scored a goal.
The Rangers also won Monday night, 6-2 over the visiting Florida Panthers.
After losing 3-2 in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, the Maple Leafs overcame a 1-0 first-period deficit with a four-goal outburst in the second period Monday.
“Willie has been excellent for us and he was excellent in that second period,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He was really good. But I thought the second period was the best period John Tavares played all season. That got Willie going. Willie finished the chances and really was good, but I thought Tavares was excellent. He led us in the second period.”
Keefe moved Nylander to a line with Tavares and moved Mitchell Marner to play with Auston Matthews after the sluggish first period.
“We had to change something,” Keefe said. “Well, we had to change many things, but that was probably the biggest change. And it was noticeable right from that first shift in terms of what (Marner) and Auston Matthews brought to that first shift. Life and energy and, obviously, John and (Nylander with Jarnkrok) connected as well and things just started to come together for us.”
“I’m trying to pick up my game,” Nylander said. “Every night that’s what I’ve been trying to focus on doing, so it’s nice to get that night.”
Ilya Samsonov, in his third consecutive start, made 31 saves and improved to 13-0-1 on home ice.
Marner did not have a point, ending his franchise-record home point streak at 20 games.
The Rangers won on Monday despite Florida’s 35-26 advantage in shots on goal.
“I wasn’t overly happy most of the night,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “You win 6-2 and you’re questioning your lines again. We’ll see what happens tomorrow and go to work, but we can be better than that. It wasn’t a great game.”
Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin each had three points for the Rangers.
Zibanejad had two goals– including the 250th of his career — and added an assist on Fox’s goal. Fox had a goal and assisted on each of Zibanejad’s goals. Panarin had three assists — two on Zibanejad’s goals and the other on Fox’s goal. It was his 28th career three-assist game.
“I think we were just getting to open areas for each other,” Fox said. “The big thing on a couple of those goals was to spread the ice, spread them out, open things up and we got some good looks from that.”
Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves and came close to scoring a goal into an empty net with 5:25 left in the third period.
“We played a smart game,” Shesterkin said. “I saw all the shots. It’s easy when you see the puck.”
“It’s always good when the puck is going in with not many shots on net,” Panarin said. “Of course, it’s better for our mood, excited, energy coming. That’s always nice when you shoot a few and score a few. That happens sometimes.”
–Field Level Media