The New York Islanders had to play catch up twice, erasing one-goal Maple Leafs leads with -- brace yourself -- secondary scoring. But in the third period, it was the top line that took it away to create a three-goal margin of victory in a game that provided zero comforting answers for the home team.
At 13:08 of the third period, Matt Moulson finished a nice bit of John Tavares tenacity behind the net, and just 48 seconds later P.A. Parenteau found a walk-year surge of backup fuel to turn a Leafs offensive zone turnover into a breakaway goal. Moulson capped things off with an empty net goal, his 32nd of the season.
The secondary scoring came courtesy of Josh Bailey (who, granted, finished a sweet Tavares setup made possible by Parenteau's zone entry) and David Ullstrom, who finished a sweeter Michael Grabner backhand feed made possible by Casey Cizikas' entry. (That Cizikas line was lovely, actually.)
But so much of this game is hard to figure: Credit to the Isles for also holding the shots against down, but ... the Leafs only managed 14. Back-to-back or not, that's unconscionable coming off the 8-0 drubbing in Boston. The chorus of boos as the clock wound down was well earned.
Faceoff Oddities: Frans Nielsen was 6-1 on faceoffs tonight. Casey Cizikas was 1-7.
What's Going On? I have no idea what Travis Hamonic was doing on the Leafs' first goal. He left his station to pursue ... hmmm, not even sure if it was the puck, really -- but the guy he left open was none other than Phil Kessel. Rare brainfart for Hamonic.
Bailey tied it five minutes later, but early in the second Matthew Lombardi took advantage of another bit of puck-watching by the Islanders defense, capped off by Evgeni Nabokov failing to block the ice for Lombardi's quasi-wraparound. Perhaps Nabby was still in shock that Dylan Reese and Mark Streit weren't around to provide resistance.
What is this Odd Feeling? The Islanders had not won by more than one non-empty-net goal since winning 4-1 in Philadelphia Jan. 19.
Scare: John Tavares (three assists) drove hard around Dion Phaneuf, who chopped at the puck and at his feet. The resulting blender of momentum appeared to cause a toe pick (maybe in part a trip?) that sent Tavares somersaulting into the boards with his leg bent behind him. No damage though. It's good to be young.
Almost: On a mostly unthreatening (like most of them) second-period powerplay, P.A. Parenteau set up Matt Moulson for a beauty at the doorstep, but Moulson mostly whiffed, and as the rebound dribbled toward the goal line, James Reimer was able to sweep it to safety with his glove.
Almost, II: Similarly, Evgeni Nabokov robbed Carter Ashton of what would've been his first NHL goal after Mark Eaton inexplicably chopped a clear directly to a Leafs forechecker.
Speaking of which: They called some penalties on the Leafs! I know, right? Odd.
Not that it mattered: The powerplay was pretty sloppy. Lots of bouncing, jumping pucks all night really -- not that this is an excuse, but there weren't a lot of smooth puck paths for either team.
When it's not going your way, it's not going your way: Nino Niederreiter ended up minus-2 (as did Marty Reasoner), pushing Nino to minus-24 on the season. His countryman Mark Streit helped out by going minus-1 himself though, so Streit hits minus-25 on the season. None can match the minus-31 of Milan Jurcina, who sat this one out as Steve Staios played his 993rd NHL game.
Streit, by the way, picked up two assists to rise to 42 points on the season. He had 48 in his last healthy year.
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Who knows what the Leafs will look like when Carlyle settles in with his team and his approach. But this was nothing like the Leafs team that got past the Isles three times earlier this season. For some reason Ron Wilson's speedy counterattack approach confounded the Isles, but tonight's opponent was, well, inert. Nothing much to learn about the Leafs here, but credit to the Isles for taking the opportunity put before them.
The Islanders pull to 71 points, tied with Tampa Bay, one behind the Leafs and two behind Carolina. They also push ahead of the once-first-overall Western foe Minnesota Wild (70 points), if you're eyeing the tanktastic standings.
The road string continues, but the Isles should stop home first before heading to Florida for a pair this weekend.