UNIONDALE, N.Y. – John Tavares scored against his former team and the Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a playoff berth with a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Monday night.
Calle Rosen also had a goal for Toronto, which needed just one point to secure its post-season spot and won for the fourth time in 11 games (4-5-2). Frederik Andersen stopped 28 shots.
Tavares, held without a point while the Maple Leafs lost by a combined 10-1 margin in his first two games against the Islanders since leaving them last summer to sign with his hometown team, broke through off a pass from Mitch Marner from the inside edge of the left circle to make it 2-0 at 3:50 of the third period. Tavares extended his career best with his 46th goal and set a career high with his 87th point.
Jordan Eberle scored and Robin Lehner finished with 36 saves for the playoff-bound Islanders, who were playing their final regular-season home game.
New York squandered a chance to pull within a point of first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division. Instead, the Islanders remained three points behind the Capitals and two ahead of third-place Pittsburgh. The Capitals, who lost 5-3 at Florida, and the Islanders each have two games remaining — including the season finale at Washington on Saturday night. The Penguins have three games left.
Eberle spoiled Andersen’s shutout bid with 5:05 left as he got a pass from Brock Nelson from in front of the goalie and put the puck in from the left side on the power play for his 19th of the season and fourth in the last three games.
The Islanders pulled Lehner with about 1:40 left but couldn’t beat Andersen again as the Maple Leafs held on.
Tavares was greeted by a chorus of boos when the Maple Leafs took the ice for pregame warmups, when his name was announced for the starting lineups, and when Toronto came out for the start of the game. He was booed nearly every time he stepped on the ice in the first period, and again serenaded with chants of “We Don’t Need You” about three minutes into the game.
It was a less hostile reception than the one he received on Feb. 28 in his first game as a visiting player. On that night, fans angry at his departure after he repeatedly said he hoped to stay, mixed in boos and several derisive chants from the start of warmups and throughout the game.
Rosen got the Maple Leafs on the scoreboard, firing a slap shot from the top of the left circle past Lehner 2:17 into the second. The 25-year-old defenceman, making his season debut after playing in four games in October 2017, got his first career goal.
Lehner gloved a shot by Tavares on a 3-on-1 break for the Maple Leafs nearly eight minutes into the middle period, drawing chants of “Leh-ner! Leh-ner!” from the sold-out crowd.
Andersen denied attempts by Devon Toews and Adam Pelech 16 seconds apart to keep the Islanders off the scoreboard about 90 seconds later.
Josh Bailey had a breakaway late in the second, but Toronto defenceman Ron Hainsey caught up to the Islanders forward and prevented him from getting off a good shot.
The Maple Leafs outshot the Islanders 16-12 in a scoreless first period, with both goalies making several nice stops. Lehner’s best save was a lunging stop on Tyler Ennis in close with about 1:14 left.
NOTES: Toronto RW Connor Brown had an assist on Rosen’s goal, moving him one point away from 100 for his career. … Tavares’ previous career high of 86 points was set in 2014-15. He had 84 points a year ago in his last season with the Islanders. … New York was 12-6-2 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center this season and finished 12-7-2 at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum. … The Islanders won the first two meetings, 4-0 at Toronto on Dec. 29 and 6-1 on Feb. 28 at the Coliseum. … New York was 1 for 4 on the power play after coming in 1 for 16 over the previous seven games.
Maple Leafs: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
Islanders: At the Florida Panthers on Thursday night before closing the regular season at Washington on Saturday night.
Follow Vin Cherwoo at http://www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP
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