NHL Hockey

Leafs' Tavares makes second visit to Long Island since departure

Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) and goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) celebrate their win over the Florida Panthers during NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Monday, March 25, 2019. Tavares scored four goals in the win. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

John Tavares will make his second trek to Long Island this season, and the reception he'll likely receive on Monday night likely won't be much nicer than the first.

Tavares and the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs bid to tune out the noise and clinch a playoff berth on Monday when they visit the New York Islanders.

The 28-year-old Tavares certainly heard it from the Islanders' faithful at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum during the Maple Leafs' 6-1 drubbing on Feb. 28. That contest that marked Tavares' return to Long Island for the first time since serving as the face of the franchise for the first nine years of his NHL career.

Tavares, who signed a seven-year, $77 million contract in July, was held off the scoresheet in that game, but erupted for 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in his next 12 contests. Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, they have lost seven of their last 10 games (3-5-2) -- with their second defeat against NHL-worst Ottawa coming via a 4-2 setback on Saturday.

"I'm sure it will be probably somewhat similar," Tavares said of the reaction he'll receive in New York on Monday. "It is what it is. I'm just going to go out there and try and play well."

Tavares has been held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games and has failed to notch a point in both encounters versus the Islanders this season.

Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, however, wasn't interested in feeding into the hype when asked if the team wants to win for Tavares on Monday.

"We want to win every night. We're selfish that way," Babcock said. "We want to win for one another, we want to win for our fans, we want to win for ourselves. This will be no different. You do good things, good things will happen. Get prepared, let's go."

While Toronto is still waiting to clinch a playoff berth, New York punched its ticket to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons following Saturday's 5-1 romp over Buffalo.

"It's so nice, we've been battling all year (to clinch a playoff berth)," said Anthony Beauvillier, who scored twice to help the Islanders secure their fourth win in five outings. "It's just fun, it's an exciting time of the year. To be able to be in the playoffs, we feel lucky but we also deserve it. We worked hard for it.

"Nothing's done yet. It's just the beginning of something."

Beauvillier is right in that regard, as the Islanders reside three points behind Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Both teams have three games remaining on their schedule.

Jordan Eberle continued his scoring surge with his fourth goal in his last four games overall on Saturday. He had two assists in the previous meeting with the Maple Leafs.

Robin Lehner has turned aside 129 of the last 136 shots he faced over his last four-plus contests overall and 70 of 71 in two wins this season over Toronto, highlighted by a 36-save shutout in a 4-0 win on Dec. 29.

--Field Level Media

Updated April 1, 2019

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