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Islanders still fighting as they visit Maple Leafs

Sportsnaut
Jan 22, 2022; Elmont, New York, USA;  New York Islanders center Casey Cizikas (53) checks Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Carl Dahlstrom (48) into the boards during the second period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders have alternated wins and losses in their last six games entering Sunday night’s road game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Islanders (35-30-9, 79 points) are hoping to break that cycle and book a second consecutive victory coming off Friday’s 3-0 win at Montreal.

Islanders coach Barry Trotz wasn’t entirely pleased with the way his team battled through a difficult 60 minutes against the Canadiens.

“That was a tough game … we got outplayed, but I don’t think we got outcommitted,” Trotz said.

One of those who committed to keep the Islanders in the game was goalie Ilya Sorokin, who made 44 saves for his seventh shutout of the season.

“He’s played that way all year,” Trotz said. “We feel pretty fortunate that we go into most games feeling that our goaltender can match any goaltender on the other side, even (Montreal’s) Carey (Price).”

The Islanders also had some help on offense with goals from Zach Parise, Noah Dobson and Brock Nelson’s empty-netter.

Parise said New York will continue to fight for points until the last game of the season.

“We’re a proud group. We’re a proud team. We’re gonna play all the way … to the end,” he said. “Regardless of what’s happening, we’re gonna show up, we’re gonna compete, that’s just in our DNA.”

The Islanders will be without goalie Semyon Varlamov (illness) and defenseman Scott Mayfield (lower-body injury). Forward Cal Clutterbuck is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

The Leafs have won two straight and four of their last five games, including a 5-4 overtime victory at Ottawa.

Toronto (49-20-6, 104 points) hopes to continue the momentum into the postseason.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe was happy to see his team rally from a two-goal deficit to eventually win in overtime.

“Once we were down, we fought back,” Keefe said. “We got down again in the third period, (we) evened the score to get it to overtime, then it’s anybody’s game from there.”

Toronto is trying to hold off Tampa Bay for second place in the Atlantic Division and each victory helps.

“We’re just trying to accumulate all the points that we can and try to put ourselves in the best position possible. Obviously right now we’re in control of our situation in terms of that second seed,” Keefe said. “So, getting these two (points) here was good.”

One player helping Toronto stack up points is forward Mitch Marner. Marner scored twice against the Senators and has 33 goals and 60 assists this season.

The forward agreed with Keefe that the Leafs started off sloppy but showed persistence in coming back to win.

“We knew they (Ottawa) were going to come at us fast. They did a good job of it,” Marner said. “I thought the third period we played the game we needed to and we got the result we wanted.”

The Maple Leafs are without defensemen Jake Muzzin and Rasmus Sandin and forward Ondrej Kase (concussion).

–Field Level Media