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Tavares ends drought, Islanders defeat Maple Leafs

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- The Air Canada Centre is John Tavares' home away from home.

Tavares, who grew up in nearby Oakville, Ont., scored his first goal in six games and had an assist to help the New York Islanders to a 6-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

The two points gave Tavares 19 in his past 12 games at ACC, the most of any visiting player since 2009.

"I just try to approach it like any other game, but obviously it's a lot of fun when you come back home and you have a lot of friends and family at the game," Tavares said. "You want to play well because you grew up here. I have some good memories from here and you just try to build on those."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano said he was not aware of Tavares' production in Toronto.

"I never really focus on the stats too much as far as how our team plays," Capuano said. "Knowing that now, for him that is good. It is his home too, and a lot of people come to watch him. He had a good night. He has played well. You look around the League and there are other guys struggling too. He has been an Olympian, he has been an All-Star and he came seconds away from leading the League in scoring (last season). You go through spurts where you don't get points. He's getting his chances."

Anders Lee and Frans Nielsen each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders (20-12-5), who moved into second place in the Metropolitan Division. Brock Nelson, Nikolay Kulemin and Matt Martin scored and Thomas Greiss made 30 saves for New York, which has won two of its past three games following three losses in a row.

Brad Boyes, PA Parenteau and Shawn Matthias scored for Toronto (13-15-7), which had accumulated points in five straight home games with three wins and two overtime losses.

Jonathan Bernier allowed six goals on 15 shots and was pulled after the second period. James Reimer made six saves in the third.

The Islanders took the lead two minutes into the game when Nelson beat Toronto center Peter Holland to a loose puck in the Maple Leafs zone and then with only right wing Joffrey Lupul back, headed to the net and beat Bernier with a low shot. It was Nelson's 13th goal of the season.

The Maple Leafs tied it 39 seconds later. Greiss denied defenseman Jake Gardiner's shot from the point, but Boyes scooped the rebound and put home his third goal of the season. The assist for Gardiner was the 100th point of his NHL career.

The Islanders regained the lead at 11:51 when Tavares redirected Josh Bailey's pass to the slot past Bernier.

Tavares has 14 goals and 27 points in 34 games. He isn't pleased with his production, but hopes his performance Tuesday will provide some traction.

"That is what I am striving for," Tavares said. "I expect a lot more from myself. I have had some good games and I just need to produce, find a way to get the puck in the net, whether it's me on my opportunities or create more for my linemates."

Nielsen split the Maple Leafs' defensive pair of Gardiner and Dion Phaneuf and then slipped a backhand shot between Bernier's legs to make it 3-1 at 17:45. It was Nielsen's 13th goal of the season.

Parenteau made it 3-2 at 10:57 of the second period for his ninth of the season. But Kulemin, a former Maple Leafs forward, restored New York's two-goal lead when he caught Bernier down and out for his fourth of the season and second in as many games at 11:25.

Martin extended the Islanders lead when he scored his fifth goal of the season at 18:06 to make it 5-2.

The Islanders scored again 1:14 later when Lee tipped Calvin de Haan's shot for his fifth goal of the season. The Maple Leafs challenged the goal hoping for a goalie interference call, but the goal stood.

Reimer, who missed seven games because of a groin injury and backed up Bernier in a 3-1 win at the Islanders on Sunday, started the third period.

Matthias made it 6-3 at 16:00 of the third period when he one-timed Boyes' pass from behind the net past Greiss. It was his third goal of the season.

"I just didn't think we were very good," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "You can blame our D, but our forwards didn't do too much to slow them down in the neutral zone. They scored on their chances early. We didn't play as good as we should have and we knew they were going to be better than they were last game."

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