Barzal & Islanders Blank Tavares & Maple Leafs

TORONTO — Mathew Barzal scored a natural hat trick in the second period as the New York Islanders blanked the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-0 on Saturday.

Valtteri Filppula had the other goal for New York (20-13-4), which has won six of its last seven. Robin Lehner made 35 saves for his second shutout of the season, while Ryan Pulock added two assists.

Garret Sparks stopped 24 shots in taking the loss as Toronto (26-11-2) saw its five-game winning streak snapped.

Leafs centre John Tavares suited up against the Islanders for the first time since signing with Toronto in free agency on July 1. The 28-year-old played nine seasons in New York, collecting 272 goals and 349 assists for 621 points in 669 games.

Tavares, the first pick in the 2009 NHL draft, served as Islanders captain from September 2013 until bolting for the team he cheered for as a kid growing up in Toronto’s suburbs.

He has 26 goals and 18 assists in 39 games with his new team, but saw a six-game point streak (seven goals, four assists) come to an end as his old club got a measure of revenge led by Barzal’s second-career hat trick.

With the Islanders up 1-0 after 20 minutes, the reigning NHL rookie of the year doubled New York’s lead at 2:49 of the second with a deft tip of Johnny Boychuk’s point shot.

Barzal scored his second of the night 2:07 later on a power play when his one-timer deflected off Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev and bounced past a helpless Sparks.

New York Islanders Mathew Barzal Toronto Maple Leafs Garret Sparks
New York Islanders centre Mathew Barzal scores on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Garret Sparks (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

The 16th pick in the 2015 draft completed his hat trick at 9:27 off a neutral zone turnover on a shot that beat Sparks five-hole for his 10th goal of the season.

The hat trick came in just 7:44 of action and marked the first time an Islanders player has scored three times against the Leafs in the same game since Mike Bossy on March 20, 1986.

Tavares had a diving chance to get his listless team back in it with seven minutes left in the second, but Lehner — who didn’t have a lot to do in picking the 10th shutout of his career until the game was well in hand — was there to make the save.

A significant chunk of the crowd at Scotiabank Arena showered the Leafs with boos at the conclusion of the period, while an Islanders fan near the tunnel to Toronto’s locker-room flashed a homemade sign with the word “Loyalty” clearly directed at Tavares.

The Leafs weren’t able to get much of anything going in the third and will now try to regroup ahead of Thursday’s rare afternoon home game against Minnesota. The Islanders visit Buffalo on Monday.

Sparks, who picked a 4-2 road victory Friday over Columbus in Toronto’s first game after the NHL’s Christmas break, got his third straight start.

Leafs No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen backed up Sparks the last two games, but didn’t dress against New York because of a groin injury. Kasimir Kaskisuo was recalled from the AHL Marlies on an emergency basis.

Lehner, meanwhile, stopped all 10 shots he faced after coming on in relief of Thomas Greiss midway through the second period of the Islanders’ 6-3 comeback victory over Ottawa at home Friday.

Robin Lehner, New York Islanders
Robin Lehner, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Islanders jumped out to a 1-0 lead Saturday at 9:53 of the first when Filppula split Toronto’s defence and beat Sparks past the blocker for his ninth after New York captain Anders Lee hit the crossbar a few minutes earlier.

Michael Dal Colle, who was recalled from the AHL with Islanders winger Jordan Eberle (upper-body injury) on injured reserve, recorded an assist on the play for his first NHL point in his seventh game.

Sparks robbed Filppula of his second on a short-handed chance late in the first before Lehner made a desperation save on Auston Matthews from in tight on the same man advantage.

While most of the chatter prior to the teams hitting the ice revolved around Tavares, Saturday also marked the first game in Toronto for former Leafs wingers Leo Komarov and Matt Martin. Komarov played five seasons with Toronto before signing with New York in free agency, while Martin was dealt back to the Islanders after two years with the Leafs.

Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello also spent the last three seasons as Toronto’s GM.

Notes: Barzal’s other NHL hat trick came Dec. 23, 2017, against Winnipeg. … The Leafs were also shut out 3-0 at home by Pittsburgh on Oct. 18. … Komarov, who had a goal waved off in the second period after he gloved the puck into Toronto’s net, and Martin were honoured with a video tribute during the first TV timeout.


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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press