Nelson nets Islanders wild OT win over Maple Leafs

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[February 07, 2017]  NEW YORK -- There have been bigger and more unexpected comebacks in sports over the last 48 hours than the one accomplished Monday night by the New York Islanders.

But it might have been big enough and unexpected enough to allow the Islanders to keep turning their season around.

Andrew Ladd scored the tying goal with 1:29 remaining in regulation Monday night and Brock Nelson scored with 2:18 left in overtime as the Islanders earned a wild 6-5 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Barclays Center.

"It's certainly good to come out on the right side of it," said Islanders center Ryan Strome, who scored the game's first goal just 83 seconds after faceoff. "That's a good team win. And that's a game, hopefully, you can build off of, get some confidence. Great resiliency by this group."

The goals by Ladd and Nelson capped a whirlwind final 10 minutes of game action for the Islanders. Josh Bailey tied the game with 6:30 remaining in the third period, but New York appeared headed for another agonizingly close defeat when William Nylander scored to give the Maple Leafs a 5-4 lead with 2:01 remaining.

The Islanders have lost eight games this season in which they gave up the tying or go-ahead goal within three minutes of the end of regulation. That includes a 5-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday in which Danny DeKeyser scored the game-winning goal with 28 seconds remaining.

Strome said the earlier defeats brought a sense of serenity to the bench following Nylander's goal.

"I think we've learned a lot in our struggles this year," Strome said. "There was never really any panic. It's an unfortunate break, but we came right back."

Ladd forced overtime when he positioned himself at the foot of the net and tapped home a pass from Bailey. Nelson scored on the Islanders' only shot in overtime, when he fired the puck under the right arm of Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen.

"We've got one (comeback win) coming to us, at least -- we've got another couple coming, I think," interim Islanders head coach Doug Weight said. "It's big. We're a different team than the beginning of the year. We are. But it's still going to be brought up, and people will bring it up and it'll still be in (the players') minds at times. So I'm trying to erase that. Certainly, every one of these is going to help that tremendously. It's just going to build belief."

So, too, will finally winning a game the Islanders trailed after two periods. Prior to Monday, New York was 0-10-2 when losing entering the third period.

"It's nice to come out, get ourselves back in it and find a way," said Nelson, whose goal with 6:12 left in the second period cut the Maple Leafs' lead to 4-3. "You're going to need that down the stretch, (to) find a way to win tight games, especially late."

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Nikolay Kulemin also scored for the Islanders (23-18-10), who have gone 7-1-2 in their last 10 games to move back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. New York is three points behind the Philadelphia Flyers, who occupy the second wild card. The two teams play Thursday night in Philadelphia.

"We dug deep," Weight said. "We've got a big game Thursday. This is a big win for us."

Goalie Thomas Greiss recorded 27 saves for the Islanders.

Earning the loser's point vaulted the Maple Leafs (24-17-10) into a tie with the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division but didn't entirely lessen the sting of the defeat for head coach Mike Babcock.

"If it was 2-1, I probably wouldn't feel like I do right now," Babcock said. "It's disappointing. We had the game won and we gave it up."

Nikita Soshnikov, Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and Zach Hyman also scored for the Maple Leafs, who blew a trio of leads in losing for the fourth time in five games (1-3-1).

"We had a 4-2 lead and we had a 5-4 lead," Hyman said. "In both scenarios, we've got to be able to close the game out. And we didn't."

Andersen made 28 saves.

NOTES: The Islanders scratched RW Cal Clutterbuck (lower body) as well as RW Stephen Gionta and D Scott Mayfield. Clutterbuck has missed the last two games and four of the last five contests with separate lower body injuries. ... Beginning Thursday, the Islanders will play 21 of their final 31 games on the road. The St. Louis Blues (30) are the only other NHL team to play as many as 30 home games so far this season. ...The Maple Leafs scratched LW Josh Leivo, D Alexey Marchenko and D Martin Marincin. ... Maple Leafs LW Matt Martin was active two days after a fight with Boston Bruins D Adam McQuaid left him with a cut on his left ear that required several stitches.

[ 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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