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Tavares' streak ends as Leafs blank Isles

by Neil Acharya
TORONTO -- All good things must come to an end.

Such was the case for John Tavares on Monday night, as the All-Star's 12-game point streak came to an end in the New York Islanders' 3-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

With family and friends in the stands, Tavares was unable to extend his League-leading point streak, which saw him tally 21 points (8 goals, 13 assists) along the way. He'll attempt to begin a new streak Tuesday night, when these teams will meet again in New York.

"Really it doesn't matter a whole lot … what I try to do is contribute offensively and we didn't get the win tonight, so that's what matters the most and what I'm most worried about," Tavares said. "It's over. I'll just move on and get ready to play tomorrow."

Matthew Lombardi scored twice for the Maple Leafs, while Jonas Gustavsson stopped all 25 shots he faced to earn the shutout.

Gustavsson now has three shutouts this season and is just one win away from tying his career high of 16, which he achieved in his first season with the Leafs in 2009-10.

"I didn't see a lot of shots in the first two periods," Gustavsson said. "(We worked really hard), especially on the back-check. We didn't get those odd man rushes that they wanted. The guys helped me a lot. I saw all the shots, and if not, they blocked it and got the puck out of our zone."  

While he may not have been that busy through two periods (New York mustered only 11 shots through the first 40 minutes), Gustavsson was certainly cognoscente of Tavares' presence.

"Every time he has the puck, you gotta be ready for anything," Gustavsson said. "He's such a good passer, too. He can really make plays, so you gotta turn your head, be sharp and be ready to push wherever he is gonna put the puck. Of course, you look for him out there."

Toronto held on to a slim 1-0 lead for most of the game after scoring early in the first until Phil Kessel netted the insurance marker at 8:10 of the third period to give the Leafs some breathing room.

While Kessel may have scored the goal, it was Joffrey Lupul who demonstrated why he may be the Leafs' Most Valuable Player this season. After he put a scoring opportunity just wide, the Islanders turned the puck the other way and entered the Leafs' zone on an odd man rush. Lupul was initially out of the play, but raced the length of the ice to back check. When the Isles deflected their opportunity just wide, Lupul picked up the puck and charged back out from his own end, through the neutral zone and gained Islanders' blue line. He then fired a shot that was denied by Evgeni Nabokov, but the rebound went out to his right, straight to Kessel, who was there to collect the rebound. He banged home his 26th goal of the season to make it 2-0.

In a lackluster second period, Toronto outshot New York by an 8-6 margin. The Islanders' top line of Tavares, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo caused some havoc for the Leafs in their own zone, especially during a shift with just under five minutes remaining.

However, Tavares felt his club could have done more to put pressure on Toronto.

"The things we tried weren't working," Tavares said. "We didn't really get many opportunities until the third and even then, we couldn't really find a way to get some good quality chances. We didn't execute the way we wanted to and it was really tough for us to try to get back in the game and gain some momentum. Obviously, we didn't do enough to even draw a penalty."

Lombardi opened the scoring at 1:37 of the opening period. After receiving a quick pass from Jake Gardiner just inside the Isles' blue line, Lombardi's shot caromed off the traffic in front and past Nabokov. Initially the goal was credited to Nazem Kadri, who was behind the Islanders' goalie and seemed to have gotten his stick on the puck. Lombardi now has 3 goals in his past two games.

"Naz and T.C. (Tim Connolly) drove the net … I guess it went off their guy and in the net," Lombardi said. "We got some bounces that way. They're not always going to be pretty ones. We know that. We've got to fight for everything -- especially this time of year."

The NHL's third star of the past week, Nabokov faced 35 shots and was at his busiest in the first.  He was especially sharp when PA Parenteau went to the box for tripping Kessel at 13:26. The Leafs fired six shots on net with the man advantage and Nabokov was equal to the task each time against Toronto's fifth-ranked power play.
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