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Islanders crush Maple Leafs in first game against Tavares

Islanders Maple Leafs Hockey

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) scores on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Garret Sparks (40) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)


Well this had to be a very, very, very satisfying win for the New York Islanders.

In their first game against former captain John Tavares since he left for the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agency this past summer, the Islanders rolled to a 4-0 victory on Saturday night and continued their recent strong play.

With Saturday’s win the Islanders have now won six of their past seven games and continue to exceed expectations this season as they push for what would be an unexpected playoff spot.

The star of the night for the Islanders on Saturday was their new franchise player, reigning 2018 Rookie of the Year Mathew Barzal, as he recorded a natural hat trick in the second period in just seven minutes of clock time.

After putting together an incredible rookie season for the Islanders in 2017-18, Barzal has come back in year two and remained an outstanding playmaker but has seen his goal-scoring drop off a bit, having entered Saturday’s game with just seven goals in his first 36 games. Lately, though, he has started to go on a goal-scoring binge that has seen him score six goals in his past four games to give him 10 on the season. If he starts to get on a roll it could be a game-changer for the Islanders this season because they’ve mostly hung around in the playoff race getting little goal-scoring from him and Josh Bailey, two of their best offensive performers from a year ago.

As for Tavares and the Maple Leafs, the loss snapped what had been a five-game winning streak.

Tavares ended up playing 17 minutes on the night, recording five shots on goal, and finishing as a minus-one.

The two teams will meet two more times this season, with both games coming in New York on Feb. 28 and April 1. Both games will almost certainly have an intense environment.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.