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Auston Matthews scores twice as Leafs dominate Islanders 7-1

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Feb 15th, 2017

Auston Matthews scored twice and Frederik Andersen won his 100th career game as the Toronto Maple Leafs emerged with a 7-1 win and two key points over the surging New York Islanders on Tuesday night.

The Leafs entered the affair just one point up on the Islanders for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, increasing that cushion to three (63 to 60) with the victory. Toronto had dropped six of its previous eight games. The Islanders had scooped up points in 10 of the first 14 games (8-2-2) under interim coach Doug Weight.

Matthews scored his 26th and 27th goals in the win while Andersen stopped 33-of-34 shots to capture the milestone victory.

Josh Leivo had a career-high three points (one goal and two assists) in the win, Nazem Kadri and William Nylander also chipped in with two points apiece (goal and assist). Toronto (26-18-11) hit a season-high for goals this season in the win, Tyler Bozak and Matt Hunwick both finding the net as well.

Jason Chimera scored the lone goal for New York (25-20-10). Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube yielded seven goals on 41 shots in defeat.

Starting slow in their previous two games (both losses), the Leafs decided to change up their routine ahead of the game, opting not to hold a morning skate as usual.

“We just thought it was the best thing for us,” head coach Mike Babcock said.

The switch-up spurred the desired result against the Islanders, the Leafs racing out to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Leivo started the scoring just past the midway point of the period, ripping a shot from the top of the left circle past Greiss. The 23-year-old Leivo, scoring his first goal of the season, capitalized when the passing attempt of Islanders defenceman Adam Pelech went astray.

Leivo was getting a chance to play with rookie winger Nikita Soshnikov sidelined.

Kadri added to the lead with 32 seconds left in the period, the 26-year-old inadvertently deflecting a Nikita Zaitsev point shot into the empty cage behind Greiss. The goal was Kadri’s first in the past 10 games and 21st of the season, setting a new career-high.

New York, which won the first two meetings between the teams this season (including a 6-5 overtime defeat one week earlier), had its share of decent opportunities early on, twice hitting posts on shots from Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey.

Toronto made it 3-0 midway through the second when Kadri fired a puck on goal from along the wall as he rushed down the left side of the ice. Greiss made a stick save, but shuffled it right to Nylander crashing the net. The puck bounced off the right knee of the 20-year-old Swede for his 15th goal this season, even with Mitch Marner for second among Leafs rookies behind Matthews.

From there Andersen took over.

With the Leafs shorthanded the 27-year-old shut down John Tavares and then Bailey moments later. After a three-on-one for Toronto came up empty — one pass too many for the trio of Marner, Bozak and James van Riemsdyk — Andersen denied Chimera on a breakaway.

The Leafs were penalized on the play, Matt Hunwick deemed to have stymied Chimera’s progress — a seemingly marginal call. The veteran winger was awarded a penalty shot and he beat Andersen high-blocker to cut the Toronto lead to 3-1.

The home side grew further frustrated with the officiating when Kadri was dinged for hooking Tavares. He exited the box full of fury after a successful Leafs penalty kill, delivering a hard hit on Islanders forward Alan Quine which caused a scrum between the teams as the horn sounded to end the second.

Fans at the Air Canada Centre booed the officials when they entered the ice for the third.

Andersen had been sitting on career win No. 99 for two weeks, his last victory coming on Feb. 4. He’s scuffled in the new year, entering the night with a .893 save percentage in 16 starts since Jan. 1.

Matthews increased the Leafs lead back to three early in the final frame, flipping a backhand rebound past Greiss on the power play. The 19-year-old added another a short while, depositing a Connor Brown feed from behind the goal.

Matthews leads all NHL rookies with 27 goals this season, now just three behind Sidney Crosby for the overall lead (30).

The Leafs head to Columbus on Wednesday to complete their 13th back-to-back of the season. The club is 9-2-2 on the first night and only 4-7-1 on the second.

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