Matthew Lombardi scored twice and Jonas Gustavsson
made 25 saves as the Toronto Maple Leafs blanked the New York Islanders 3-0 on Monday in the first game of a home-and-home series.
also scored to help Toronto (24-19-5) move into an eight-place tie with the idle Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference standings at 53 points.
The Leafs held red-hot Islanders forward John Tavares off the scoresheet and snapped a three-game win streak for New York (19-22-6).
Tavares came into the game with eight goals and 13 assists during a 12-game scoring streak. New York went 8-4-0 over that span.
It was the third shutout this season for Gustavsson, who has grabbed the reins with nine starts in Toronto's last 10 games.
The Maple Leafs, who had lost four of their last five, played aggressively and outshot New York 35-25. They were criticized for taking defeat too casually after a 3-1 loss to rival Montreal at home on Saturday.
Lombardi scored an insurance goal to make it 3-0 with just over three minutes left to play when he blasted a hard wrist shot past Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
Kessel doubled the lead at 8:10 of third when charging winger Joffrey Lupul
fired a wrist shot from the right face-off circle that caromed off Nabokov's pads and right to Kessel's waiting stick for his team-leading 26th goal of the season.
The Leafs all-star sniper had been a bit cold lately with only two points in his last six games coming into Monday.
Kessel had chance earlier in the third when skated in alone past defenceman Andrew MacDonald and fired a shot just wide of Nabokov on the stick-side.
Gustavsson wasn't called upon much in the second until there were only four minutes remaining in the period. He made several big stops on the Islanders' top line, including an close-range shot by Tavares. The Islanders fired just six shots in the period.
Gustavsson was forced into action in the third as the Islanders started to press for the equalizer and fired 14 shots in the period.
Toronto jumped out to 1-0 lead just over 90 seconds into the game when Lombardi's slapshot rebounded off Nabokov and seemed to be slid into the net by a streaking Nazem Kadri
. However, a review later credited Lombardi with the goal, giving him three goals in two games.
Nabokov, who came into the game having allowed only four goals in four games, was solid in the first period as the Leafs dominated and outshot their opponents 16-5.
Toronto has played nine of its last 10 games at Air Canada Centre and will play its next two games on the road starting Tuesday in Long Island, and finishing after the all-star break on Jan. 31 in Pittsburgh. Notes:
Toronto has gone 10 consecutive games without allowing a power-play goal. ... The Maple Leafs were missing defenceman John-Michael Liles
(concussion), winger Colby Armstrong
(concussions), forward Jay Rosehill
(scratched), defenceman Keith Aulie (scratched), and Darryl Boyce (back). ... The Islanders were without goalie Rick DiPietro (sports hernia), defenceman Steve Staios (scratched), defenceman Mike Mottau (concussion) and centre Marty Reasoner (hand). ... Canadian crooner Michael Buble was in attendance. ... Announced attendance was 19,570.