John Tavares is safe, sound and tucked away in Toronto.
Long Island’s enemy No. 1 was serenaded with cheers from Maple Leafs fans Saturday night — dubbed by the hockey addicts #TavaresDayTO — before the superstar’s first home game since being obliterated by his former crowd earlier this week.
The Leafs changed their starting lineup introductions to announce Tavares last, prompting a huge roar and standing ovation. Tavares gave them more to cheer about when he jammed in a loose puck for his 37th goal of the season. He also tallied two assists en route to a 5-2 win over the Sabres.
“It was a pretty special moment, certainly to be recognized like that and get the support of the city and the fans,” Tavares said. “Shows you why it’s special to be a Maple Leaf. Definitely got some goosebumps, and a nice little boost there.
“Nice to do it in a win, and come home on a Saturday and play the way we did.”
Tavares, the longtime face of the Islanders before slipping back on his pajamas and returning home to Toronto, was the target of vicious chants at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Among the melodies, as chronicled by ESPN:
“We don’t need you!”
“You’re a liar.”
“Who’s your daddy?”
“Where’s your jammies?”
The Islanders romped past the Leafs that Thursday night, 6-1, though the vile feelings likely remain.
“It was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life,” Tavares said at the time. “Obviously, it took me some time to do it because of how difficult it was and really not sure what I wanted to do until I made the decision.
“They always made it tough on the opponent when I played here. They have their feelings and that’s out of my control.”
— With The Associated Press