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Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares was drafted by the New York Islanders first overall in the 2009 draft. He played 669 games for them over nine seasons, scoring 621 points (272G, 349A) in his time there, before leaving the Island, as its captain, for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2018. They handled it well.
Tonight he returned once again, looking to hit a career milestone in front of the fans that cheered him when he was rookie, and booed him as a visitor.
The Leafs came out to support their captain, controlling play to begin and getting the only shots off in the first few minutes. The Islanders turn the tables and get control and after five minutes we're tied up 2-2 in shots but both Sorokin and Samsonov are holding fort.
New Islander Robert Bortuzzo gets on the scoresheet early, but not in a good way. He gets called for slashing Mitch Marner giving the Maple Leafs an early power play opportunity that they capitalize on. Auston Matthews gets set up by Nylander and Marner and puts the Leafs up 1-0.
The Maple Leafs get hemmed into their own zone, with their defense being put to the test, and after clearing it, the Islanders bring it right back in, and Brock Nelson is left along at the top of circle and puts one past Samsonov to tie it up 1-1.
Tied up at ones.
The Leafs are putting everything out there, even the fourth line.
Matt Barzal rings a shot off the post, and in retaliation for trying to tie the game David Kämpf trips him up so the Islanders are off to another power play, where they are 6/19 in the past six games. The Maple Leafs road PK? 17/17.
The Islanders PP is a little weak, doesn't challenge Toronto much, and the Leafs PK goes up to 18/18.
There's a flurry of activity in front of the Leafs net, but the defense and Samsonov keep the puck out and clear it without a goal against.
The Islanders are making Samsonov work harder than the other guy, controlling the play in the offensive end better than the Leafs, and we're treated to a Casey Cizikas goal to put the Islanders up 2-1 late in the first.
Auston Matthews almost gets his second of the game by hitting the crossbar as the first period comes to a close. Crossbars aren't goals so the first period ends with the Long Island Islanders up 2-1, and leading in shots 14-8.
Your intermission question: What the heck?
The Islanders continue to have the momentum at the start of the second, and as they attack there's a waved off icing, that throws the Leafs into a bit of a delay, and Kyle Palmeri takes advantage to score his eighth goal of the season and it's 3-1 Islanders.
After the Leafs are able to get into the Islanders zone, John Tavares tries to set up Tyler Bertuzzi, and get point 999, but Bertuzzi ends up on the ground and the play dies, and the Islanders clear.
Auston Matthews comes on with the line change and hits another post. The Leafs are coming back, not giving up the puck as much and pushing hard to tie the game.
Then, John Tavares gets that 999th point with a goal coming via deflected puck in front of the net while he battles Robert Bortuzzo. One more point to go.
3-2 Islanders, shots tied 20-20.
Samsonov and Sorokin are both being forced to make big saves to keep the score at a one goal game, and fans of both teams are cheering loud and hard at every shot and chance against the net. The Islanders are leading the chances and breakaways between the two teams, with the home team forcing more errors on the Leafs.
As the third period ticks down, the Leafs trap them in their end and we get Sorokin being forced to make save after save, as the Leafs push to tie the game before intermission.
They are unable to capitalize on their chances, and after 40 it's 3-2 Islanders, shots are 24-23 in the home team favour.
The third period begins with uninterrupted back and forth hockey, no whistles, just passing, shots, rushes. No goals, but some come close.
At the halfway mark of the third, Mike Reilly goes down on the ice, falls behind the net. He skates off on his own but in discomfort.
The Islanders come on hard, and Conor Timmins tries to clear it but he gives it away in front of the net, but thankfully Samsonov is there to bail him out.
With three minutes left it's still 3-2 for the Islanders, but the action is finally picking up. Pierre Engvall comes close to doubling the lead, the Leafs get the puck and take it back down. The crowd is looking for a reason to cheer or a reason to boo.
With two minutes remaining the Leafs empty the net to get Tavares more chances to hit his milestone. He comes close, as the Leafs hit rebound after rebound on Sorokin, but no goal for him.
However! With six seconds remaining, Morgan Rielly scores from the side of the net, and John Tavares had an assist on the goal! In front of his first fans, he hits a major milestone. The Leafs bench empties in celebration as the crowd boos and jeers.
We go to overtime, and Bo Horvat gets a breakaway chance down the ice from the Islanders net early on and roofs it to get the win for the Islanders. It ends John Tavares' big night with a loss, but a point.
Islanders win 4-3.
Whatever, who cares, we accomplished our goal.
The Leafs weren't great, but they rallied when they had to do right by their captain, just not for the victory.
The Dad's road trip continues tomorrow night across the river in Manhattan against the New York Rangers, at 7PM.
See you there!
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