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Grabner scores in Maples Leafs' win at Islanders

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Grabner has three good reasons to savor the feeling of his goal on Sunday.

It came against his former team. It was his 100th career goal. It was the game-winning goal.

Grabner's goal at 3:13 of the second period was the difference in Toronto's 3-1 win against the New York Islanders at Barclays Center. Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk also scored. Jonathan Bernier made 25 saves to help Toronto (13-14-7) improve to 5-1-2 in its past eight games.

It was Grabner's fifth goal of the season and first against the Islanders after scoring 90 goals and 144 points in 297 games for them during the past five seasons.

The Islanders traded Grabner to the Maple Leafs on Sept. 17. He did his best not to rub it in their faces.

"I'm just trying to help out the team, score some goals," Grabner said. "I think milestones you look back after your career, but right now it's just another goal."

It was also another win for Bernier, who has three wins and a .925 save percentage in his past four starts after going 0-8-3 with an .883 save percentage in his first 11 starts of the season.

Bernier is 3-1-2 since returning after a 10-day conditioning stint with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.

"I just wanted to take step by step, get going in the right direction and just make the save that I want to make, that I should make," Bernier said. "At the end of the day, if you do that then the rest will come."

The rest includes confidence. Bernier's is growing, and so too is the confidence coach Mike Babcock has in him.

"It's about his confidence; it's not about my confidence," Babcock said. "If he's confident, I'm confident. If he's not confident, I'm not confident. If he's not confident, his teammates aren't confident. That's just the tough thing for the goaltenders, but in our sport or in football with the quarterback it all comes down to that. When the goalie plays good no one talks about him and when he doesn't play good everyone talks about him. So, good for Bernie here today."

Babcock said Bernier will start again Tuesday against the Islanders at Air Canada Centre. James Reimer, who dressed as the backup Sunday for the first time since Dec. 3, is expected to start Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has been nursing a groin injury.

"It works out perfect for us," Babcock said. "It gives [Reimer] a little more time even though he said he's ready a week ago."

The Maple Leafs didn't need much time in the second period to put the Islanders down by two. Bozak scored off an end-boards rebound at 1:33, and Grabner scored a 6-on-5 goal off a rebound during a delayed penalty 100 seconds later.

Nikolay Kulemin cut the deficit to 2-1 at 12:30 of the third period with his first goal in 30 games (Oct. 20), but van Riemsdyk sealed the win for Toronto with an empty-net goal at 19:14. He has scored in three straight games and has six goals in the past seven games.

Toronto outshot the Islanders 28-14 through two periods, including 16-6 in the second. Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss made 35 saves.

The Islanders (19-12-5) have lost four of their past five games since their 8-0-2 stretch from Nov. 27-Dec. 13.

"We didn't generate much," coach Jack Capuano said. "They got a lot of pucks to the net. It doesn't matter how many chances they had. When you shoot pucks, you retrieve pucks."

Islanders captain John Tavares blamed their struggles on puck management.

"You're not going to dominate for 60 minutes in this League, but you have to make it tough on the opponent," Tavares said. "We just made it a little too easy."

Bozak scored after forward P.A. Parenteau led an easy rush into the zone down the left side. He found defenseman Roman Polak trailing the play and got him the puck. Polak's shot went wide, but it bounced off the end boards to a wide-open Bozak in the lower part of the right circle.

"That was a good bounce," Bozak said. "Roman made a good play and P.A. made a really good play to him, actually. That worked out nice, just in the right spot at the right time."

Grabner scored his 6-on-5 goal because the Maple Leafs hung onto the puck after Bernier went to the bench for an extra skater. They worked it around the zone, to defenseman Morgan Reilly at the top for a shot that hit off Greiss and went to Grabner for put-back from the slot.

Toronto continued to dominate the second period after taking the 2-0 lead. In addition to the 16-6 edge in shots on goal, the Maple Leafs had a 25-14 advantage in total shot attempts.

"We had a real good second and set ourselves up for the win," Babcock said.


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