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Soshnikov Pots Shootout Winner

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs avoided their longest losing streak of the season on Thursday night, rallying from a late deficit in regulation before winning in a shootout.

William Nylander scored the game-tying goal with less than two minutes remaining in regulation before fellow rookie Nikita Soshnikov gave the Leafs a 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders in the shootout. It was only the club's sixth win in the past 28 games (6-18-4) and snapped a string of five straight defeats by a goal.

The Islanders, meanwhile, remain three points back of the Rangers for second in the Metropolitan Division with two games in hand.

Nylander was joined on the scoresheet by Zach Hyman and Morgan Rielly while the Islanders saw John Tavares, Nick Leddy, and Ryan Strome all find the back of the net.

Garret Sparks struggled in his second straight start, yielding three goals on 27 shots. Thomas Greiss stopped 32 of 35 shots for the Islanders.

Greiss is likely to draw the bulk of starts for New York in the final month or so of the regular season. The Islanders announced prior to Wednesday's game that No. 1 netminder Jaroslav Halak would miss six weeks with a lower-body injury.

The Leafs (22-33-11) and Islanders (37-20-8) traded goals in all three periods.

Tavares opened the scoring with a breakaway marker early in the first, his 25th goal this season. The Islanders captain picked off a failed Nazem Kadri pass attempt at his own blue line, broke free of panicked defenders and then beat Sparks in alone with his second attempt on goal.

Hyman followed with his second career goal moments later. The 23-year-old, who scored his first NHL goal on Monday night, shoveled a rebound past Greiss following a point shot from Leafs defenceman Martin Marincin.

Marincin was moved onto Toronto's top pair for the game after Matt Hunwick was shut down with season-ending sports hernia surgery. Hunwick's early replacement for Wednesday's game, Viktor Loov, was also forced out with injury and was replaced by 26-year-old TJ Brennan, who was playing his first NHL game this season.

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Rielly gave the Leafs their first lead midway through the second frame, beating Greiss with a power-play marker from high in the slot. Rielly was set up on the play by Kadri, who deftly waited for the trailing Rielly to find his way into the offensive zone.

Leddy joined his defensive peer, going end-to-end with the puck before beating Sparks with a wrist shot.

Strome then snuck the Islanders back in front with less than six minutes to go in regulation, his shot trickling between the pads of Sparks before crossing the goal-line.

He was matched by Nylander, who scored his second goal in only his sixth NHL game with his father Michael, the long-time NHL player, in attendance. The 19-year-old helped the Leafs avoid another one-goal defeat, banging a rebound past Greiss with 1:13 left in regulation.

Toronto has gotten six goals from the group of four rookies recalled following the NHL trade deadline last week, including two each from Hyman, Nylander and Soshnikov.

The Leafs announced their participation in the first-ever NHL Centennial Classic before the game. Toronto will host the Detroit Red Wings at BMO Field on Jan. 1, 2017, a celebration of both the league and Leafs 100th season.

``It's the first game like it in Toronto, 100-year birthday for us in the league, I think that the atmosphere is going to be very, very good,'' Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said of the event.

The Leafs had P.A. Parenteau back in their lineup for the first time after the trade deadline. Long expected to be traded ahead of the Feb. 29 deadline, Parenteau remained with Toronto, missing the previous five games with an upper-body injury.

He finished with four shots in nearly 18 minutes.

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