Tavares' rescue goal is a bonus, as Maple Leafs ensures playoff



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UNIONDALE, N.Y. – A record is being sent back to Sweden as a souvenir for the mother.

The other sent the Toronto Maple Leafs back into the playoffs.

That the winner left John Tavares's baton in a building where just a few weeks ago threw rubber snakes in his direction, he assured that this goal would be as memorable as the first of NH Ros Rosen's NHL career.

"It's a big one," said Mitch Marner. "You could just say that our whole bank, everyone on the ice, was very excited about that moment. This is a great picture of him. It's great to see him score in this barn and get the winner of the game. "

There was something poetic about the way things happened. The crowd at the Nassau Coliseum did not give Tavares a harder trip than their first trip back on Feb. 28, and New Yorkers did not make things difficult on the Leafs, losing 2-1.

If this were a hard rock show, it felt like one more night in the symphony.

And Toronto had every part of his game working in unison.

This is not how it has been very frequent in the 31 days between trips to Uniondale – a humbling and harrowing stretch in which injuries and indifferent plays supported the official playoff championship in April. The Leafs did not win their "x" until a few days after the Islanders already did, something that even locals here would not bet on when Tavares decided to go home as a free agent last summer.

Mike Babcock is seeing the delayed postponement as nothing more than a pre-playoff character build, especially as he is encouraged by the way it emerged on the other side. Against the islanders, Toronto came out ahead in shots, attempts and chances – only strongly supporting goalkeeper Frederik Andersen for a few furry moments at 4-on-5.

"I think we went through this a short time – although we played better and better defensively, we did not win every night – I think it's good for our group," said Babcock.

It had to be good for Tavares to return to this building and find a reason to smile. You could see the relief on his face as he stepped out of the visitor's dressing room and walked toward the bus afterwards.

His goal came after Marner handed the puck cleverly to the slot. He was behind Robin Lehner for a second to touch his goal, his career's best goal of 46, and the 87th of his highly successful season.

"Mitch put it in a great place where I could just come in and I liked what I saw," Tavares said. "Just timed and I'm glad you came in."

That's exactly how Rosen felt, even he did not see his shot hitting the wire. The 25 year old defender waited a long time for a moment like this – a longer wait because of a foot injury in the American Hockey League that prevented him from being called for Leafs' last visit here after Travis Dermott. joined Jake Garinder in the injury wing.

This was Rosen's first NHL game since October 17, 2017 and he played alongside the now healthy Dermott, his former Marlies teammate. He felt much more confident than his previous four-game Leafs game.

"It's been almost two seasons since I had the last game," he said. "All the games I played with Marlies, all on small ice, helped with certainty. …

"I know myself. I kind of felt like I had myself today.

His goal opened the scoring in a seemingly innocent shot that seemed to look out of the shaft of Michael Dal Colle's staff. This completely deceived Lehner.

"I think he hit the stick or something and then maybe jumped on the ice and in the post too," Rosen said. "So, I can not say I'm completely sure of how it was, but certainly a good feeling."

He found an animated text of his mother, Marie, who stayed up the Swedish night to watch the game. He plans to send the disk back to his home in Vaxjo for safety.

If the previous stop at Long Island seemed to suggest problems for the Leafs, this looked like a rough sea. Tavares was arguably the most effective player on the ice. Andersen allowed a goal or less for the first time since February 4, a period of 21 starts. And they're getting healthier and adding depth just like they did another round in the first round with Boston.

"It's great to punch your ticket," said Tavares. "You work really hard all year to give yourself a chance and be a part of it."

Now Babcock has the luxury of resting regularly in the last three games of the regular season and everyone within the organization can expire for a brief moment.

"Finally," Andersen said. "We've made a few attempts to make sure of that, but obviously it's great to be back in the playoffs. I hope we can take revenge from last year."

A just thought after seeing the number 91 requires a small measure of your own.

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