Maple Leafs 5 (EN), Islanders 3: Coming Back is Hard

We're just havin' a little talk here.

The obvious difficulty with spotting your visiting opponent an early 3-0 lead: Coming back is hard, requires no further mistakes nor bad breaks.

The Islanders did alright to climb back into the game (twice) after conceding first-period goals to Clarke MacArthur, Nazem Kadri and Carl Gunnarsson [sorry, I had those goal scorers way off in the original post; I blame Christmas], but you need a perfect night to pull it off, and this was by no means a perfect night.

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The killer? After the Islanders had pulled back to 3-2 on a partial breakaway goal by Kyle Okposo (nice pass by Mike Mottau) and a powerplay goal from Frans Nielsen, they had several close chances to tie it on another second period powerplay. Instead of getting the right bounce to tie it, Nielsen made a boards pass P.A. Parenteau couldn't handle, it created a 2-on-1 that Mark Streit handled poorly, and the Leafs got that momentum-salvaging insurance goal. Shorthanded, no less.

A side story was several Isles taking facial wounds and another comical night of refereeing that was at least equally inexplicable to both teams. The Islanders have now lost their final two games before the break and their first two of five in the run up to the New Year.

Game Highlights

The Officiating

I don't know what was funnier, that they missed a high hit on Tim Wallace, or that they called a phantom high stick on Cody Franson after he batted the puck up into Michael Grabner's face. No, neither sequence was as good as calling Joffrey [sic] Lupul for battling John Tavares along the boards, then doubling down on the dumb by calling Tavares for diving on the same play.

Doug Weight was so livid that Jack Capuano had to hide a smile and put out a hand to hold him back, lest the officials do something like call Weight for an unsportsmanlike bench minor and then even it up by calling Scott Gordon for deadpanning. Not a proud night by any means from the officials, but in case I'm not making myself clear: It was comical for both sides and did little to affect the game's outcome.

Anyway, with the score 4-2, the Isles made it interesting one more time on a John Tavares goal from in front with 9:30 left in regulation. But the difficulty of erasing a 3-0 deficit lingered all night as the Islanders essentially lost this one in the first 12 minutes. Evgeni Nabokov even made some big saves to preserve some hope (and earlier, to keep it from being worse than 3-0) while the Isles tried to get that elusive equalizer, but no dice.

Because coming back from down 3-0 is hard to do. Best not to dig that hole that next time.

The Wounds

Matt Martin was knocked woozy when he went in to check Keith Aulie in the corner and Aulie's elbow came up and popped him in the face -- either through guile or through the natural motion of the high hand raising the arm when trying to dig the puck out along the boards. Martin would go to the locker room but return.

Grabner took the aforementioned puck to the face and went to the locker room for a while but returned. It was a good knock to the cheek.

Wallace took a high hit (shoulder? arm? meh.) from Jake Gardner and needed repairs but returned.

Overall, a lot of guys will be having Christmas dinner with some black and blue faces.

Butchie Quote of the Night

"We'll see when Coach Capuano pulls his goaltender today."

>>said with around 75 seconds left in the game

They gave up yet another empty-net goal, though at least tonight they made the opponent actually have to carry it 200 feet or so to get there. Still, once again they appeared to have no organized plan on how to use the sixth attacker.

Doug Weight Viewer Lipread of the Night

"You [Avery]'d up!! You [Avery]'d up!! You [Avery]'d up!!"

(To the officials, after inexplicably calling John Tavares for a "dive" late in the game.)

Well that was amusing anyway, and befitting the bizarre situation.

Have a good Christmas. We'll still have stuff both days this weekend before the Isles get back at it Monday night at the Garden.

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