TweetPinShare0 Shares TORONTO — John Tavares again felt right at home on the road in Toronto.With 30 family members and friends watching from the stands, the New York Islanders captain continued his career mastery at Air Canada Centre and extended his lead in the NHL scoring race.And for good measure, Tavares scored the winning goal in overtime.Tavares netted his 33rd goal of the season 4:38 into the extra session, capping the Islanders’ two-goal comeback in a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 9.Tavares, an Ontario native, went around several defenders to score the winning goal during a delayed Toronto penalty. With a goal and assist, he stretched his advantage in the scoring race to three points over Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.“He’s one of the best players in the world,” said Maple Leafs center Peter Holland, whose job for the second and third periods was to defend Tavares.“He’s so skilled. He’s very good at making passes out there, and he’s so strong on the puck down low in the offensive zone that it’s tough to contain him.”Tavares, who was born in and lives in nearby Mississauga and grew up in Oakville, has the most points of any visiting player at Air Canada Centre since he entered the NHL in the 2009-10 season.“I just try to prepare like every other game,” Tavares said. “I don’t try to put too much pressure on myself or look at it any differently because I’m from here and I have a lot of friends and family (in attendance).“But you have them here, and you certainly want to play well.” Tavares has four overtime goals this season.“I just tried to gain some speed,” Tavares said. “I saw their defenseman kind of backed off and kind of gave me the lane to the net. I just was able to hesitate enough to open up Bernier, and I was just happy it trickled in.”Tyler Kennedy — in his Islanders debut — Frans Nielson and Casey Cizikas all scored in the third period for New York (43-21-4), which has a three-point lead over the New York Rangers atop the Metropolitan Division.Michal Neuvirth made 22 saves for the Islanders, who will host the Rangers on March 10.David Booth, Holland and James van Riemsdyk scored for the Maple Leafs (26-35-6). Jonathan Bernier made 39 saves.New York trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in the third period. “It’s a much better feeling than it could have been,” Tavares said. “We were disappointed with our first two periods.”Two days after Maple Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek criticized his team for a lack of effort in a blowout loss to St. Louis, Toronto showed plenty but couldn’t complete the victory.“We did do some good things, but when you’re up by two goals in the third on home ice, you should never lose the game,” said van Riemsdyk, whose goal was just his second in 18 games.With Nazem Kadri scratched as punishment for missing a team meeting, Horachek changed up the lines and broke up the trio of van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel. It paid off for much of the night.Booth opened the scoring 18:23 into the first period by deking and lifting a backhander past Neuvirth. The goal was Booth’s third in three games after he scored only one in his first 41 this season.Less than a minute after Bernier made a big stop on Tavares, Holland followed up on a loose puck at the side of the net to give the Maple Leafs a 2-0 lead at 10:27 of the third.Kennedy cut the deficit in half 1:32 into the third period off a pass from Tavares. After van Riemsdyk restored Toronto’s two-goal lead with a goal off the rush at 6:06, the Islanders continued their comeback.With Booth in the penalty box, Nielsen scored at 9:58. Just 30 seconds later, Cizikas tipped a shot by Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic past Bernier to tie it.As the Islanders buzzed around him, Bernier made two saves in the final seconds of regulation to get the game to overtime.
The reservations about Morata’s style have centred on his preference for scooting on to through-passes, finding clever angles, rather than holding the ball with his back to goal.It is a tribute to Diego Costa’s all-round bile-ridden craft that he offered both options in the same grizzled package. Could Conte have worked at this with Chelsea’s record signing, dredged a little more from him or even adapted his attacking plans? Apparently not. Easier simply to whinge and bridle, to linger on the flaws in his squad, the impossible black holes.Before kick-off the former Real Madrid and Juventus man had been introduced to the crowd, a little vaguely as “Alvaro Marato”. But he ran eagerly from the start, even if there were some early clanks and groans. Midway through the first half Morata was left writhing on the floor after a lunge by Wes Morgan that applied the full weight of that sack of gravel masquerading as a right thigh to Morata’s big toe.He did not stop, though. Like a rusty racing bicycle easing through the first few revolutions of its wheels, chain clicking, brake blocks hissing, Morata did start to find space, looking ever more menacing as Chelsea held the ball or found space for a cross.The goal was coming. It arrived on 42 minutes, made by Willian, such a wonderful surging presence in the last month. Easing away from a knot of Leicester players in midfield, Willian looked up and threaded in his centre-forward with exactly the right kind of pass, a pass that might have been wrapped with a ribbon and decorated with “Álvaro” in blue frosted icing. Morata seized on it like a starving man, hared in on goal and finished with a beautifully easy shift of his body, slipping the ball nicely past Kasper Schmeichel’s left hand.And suddenly he looked confident, shark-like, romping about with a sense of menace. In part this was a function of Chelsea having so much more possession in the first half, a 60-40 split that removed the need to fight and haggle and scrap for the ball, and freed Morata to make those little runs off the centre-backs. Share via Email Share on Facebook Play Video Read more Leicester found some encouragement as Chelsea slackened. Riyad Mahrez had been particularly disappointing, even his fetching lop-sided canary yellow pie crust hairstyle seeming to droop as the second half wore on. But he began to find his passing range and Jamie Vardy sniped in to grab an equaliser.Pedro headed the winner in extra time. And a minute later Morata left the pitch having run hard and shown at times a real gloss of class in his touch and movement. Indeed, to watch him here was to wonder again why his time at Chelsea has been so disappointing since a fine scoring performance against Atlético Madrid in September. Conte offered faint praise for his “strength” afterwards and this was an admirable return in many ways. Share on Pinterest Share on WhatsApp Read more Topics 0:42 Read more Sportblog Most obviously there was a scoring return to the Chelsea attack for Álvaro Morata, in a week when Conte had adopted the fashionable posture of wronged superstar manager, the coach whose only failings are the failings of others, betrayed by the workaday qualities of the human clay at his disposal.Conte has suggested his players overachieved in winning the title last year, credit naturally to his own transformative powers. But even Prospero has a limit to his magic and the suggestion is that Conte clearly was under-backed by his generals.It is a position that sits uncomfortably with the addition this year of a £60m centre-forward who has been left to limp along as an ill-fitting part through the difficult days since Christmas. Morata came to the King Power Stadium having played 42 minutes of football this month and having failed to score since Boxing Day.Conte can moan about his players being beneath his attentions but this is still a high-grade £60m centre‑forward, a player Conte has now been involved in signing twice, in a team that has played to his weaknesses and dwelt on his flaws.Not so much here, though. Instead for an hour Morata provided a gathering sense of life at the point of the Chelsea attack, on the kind of night where the wind scrapes the face like a blunt razor blade and when even the idea of spring, of sun and warmth, seems almost inconceivable. Pedro’s extra-time header takes Chelsea past Leicester into semi-finals Share on Twitter Chelsea Leicester City Antonio Conte pleased with Chelsea’s character after FA Cup win at Leicester – video Antonio, Antonio. And still, just about, Antonio. Never mind the tide of snark on social media, or the sense of death that attaches itself to the endgame of every Chelsea manager; the travelling fans still sing Antonio Conte’s name with the same protective affection as they did from the start at the King Power Stadium.Chelsea kept their season alive here, edging past Leicester City into the FA Cup semi-finals. But this was also a victory studded with a sense of what might have been in another, happier second Conte season. FA Cup semi-final draw: United face Tottenham, Chelsea versus Southampton Share on Messenger Antonio Conte sets Chelsea’s sights on FA Cup final and ultimate victory FA Cup Share on LinkedIn features Reuse this content