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Islanders beat down Maple Leafs in John Tavares return – Metro US

Islanders beat down Maple Leafs in John Tavares return

The Islanders stormed to a 6-1 victory over the Maple Leafs on Thursday night behind Casey Cizikas. (Photo: Getty Images)
The highly-anticipated return of the disgraced golden boy turned into a massacre on Hempstead Turnpike. 
 
In his first game back on Long Island against his former team after shunning them in free agency seven months ago, John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs were steamrolled by the New York Islanders 6-1 on Thursday night at the Nassau Coliseum. 
 
After two meetings this year, the first coming in Toronto on Dec. 29, the Islanders have now outscored the Maple Leafs by a combined score of 10-1.
 
The former Islanders captain was held pointless on the night as he watched his old club, fueled by a raucous Coliseum keen on voicing their displeasure toward Tavares, run rampant. 
 
“I’ve played in some loud buildings before,” goalie Robin Lehner said after his 34-save night. “This was by far the loudest.” 
 
While plenty of Islanders tried to downplay Tavares’ return, they couldn’t help but feed off the crowd who — after throwing some plastic snakes on the ice and a jersey at Tavares during warm-ups — behaved despite creating a hostile environment. 
 
“Of course [you could hear the chants],” Lee said. “Anyone who was here tonight could hear them, they were loud. There was a lot of energy.”
 
Casey Cizikas continued his career season, leading the Islanders charge with what was believed to be a pair of goals, including a shorthanded tally in the second period to spark the Islanders blowout. However, his second of the night that was originally deemed a redirection off a Nick Leddy shot was awarded to the defenseman after the game. 
 
“This was the perfect game at the perfect time to show what we were really made of,” Cizikas said as the Islanders bucked a losing trend that saw them drop three of their last four games heading into Thursday night.
 
Regardless of the changed goal, Cizikas’ lone tally brought his season total up to 18. His previous career high was just nine.
 
“It’s definitely been a fun year. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, if not for my linemates, I wouldn’t be here,” Cizikas said of his fourth-line mates Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck. “If I’m the one scoring the goals, they’re the one making it happen… as a group, that’s our mindset. We go in as a pack of three and dominate, I’ve just been the lucky one so far.”
 
“He’s got a motor,” head coach Barry Trotz said of Cizikas .”That’s a skill in itself.”
 
The deafening Coliseum crowd was temporarily hushed when the Maple Leafs drew first blood on a Zach Hyman goal13:33 into the game. But Anthony Beauvillier quickly knotted things up just 2:43 later when he one-timed a pass from Josh Bailey to finish off an Islanders odd-man rush. 
 
Anders Lee put the Islanders ahead 4:33 into the second period on another one-time opportunity, which was created by a strong Brock Nelson rush to Garret Sparks’ goal. A nifty back-handed pass to the uncovered Islanders captain allowed for an easy finish. 
 
“We played pretty close to a full 60,” Lee said. “I don’t think you can get much better than that. “
 
Toronto momentarily had an equalizer through Hyman’s second, but the two-on-one break that resulted in the goal was deemed offside after video review. 
 
“It almost feels like you scored a little bit,” Lee said of the successful challenge. “The crowd gets into it after that and we’re able to respond.”
 
“That was a game-changer,” Trotz added.
 
The Islanders took full advantage of their saved lead. Cizikas’ shorthander was followed by a Valtteri Filppula tally in the final minute of the second period. Following Cizikas’ second, Nelson picked up his up his second point of the night with the Islanders’ final goal to send Islanders fans home happy. 
 
“To me, it was that playoff atmosphere,” Trotz said. “You had two teams who had a little bit of emotion in the game… like I said to the guys after the game, it’s good to have the Islanders back.”
 
There isn’t much time to enjoy the outing, however, as the defending Stanley Cup-champion Washington Capitals, Trotz’s former team, come calling on Friday night.  
 

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