The New York Islanders were a bit messy but in position to take control of the game at the end of the first period, leading 2-1 and just missing opportunities to broaden that lead. Instead, they steadily ceded territory to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period, giving up four unanswered even strength goals in an eight-minute span that silenced Nassau Coliseum.
That was it. Most players, including but hardly limited to Jaroslav Halak, played some part in the carnage. Halak was pulled at the second intermission, Jack Capuano made a couple of "wake up already!" line adjustments, but the damage was done. That the Isles outshot Toronto 17-5 in the third is the very definition of "score effects."
Damn You, Hockey: And things started so well. Ryan Strome did nice work along the right wing boards to draw two men and free up Nick Leddy, who took Strome's pass and beat Jonathan Bernier from the slot. Toronto wouldn't have tied it if the Coliseum boards hadn't intercepted a Thomas Hickey retrieval and spit the puck right out front, where Phil Kessel quickly fed James Van Riemsdyk to make it 1-1.
Take that away, turn Travis Hamonic's crossbar shot into a conversion, and maybe it's 2-0 or 3-0 at the break. Woulda, coulda. The decent work of the first period was nowhere to be found in the second. The power play converted once, to make it 2-1 late in the first period, mostly off a quick reaction by John Tavares on a Frans Nielsen shot that went wide.
Damn You, Lethargy: The collective lethargy the rest of the way was alarming. Once Kessel tied it, weak defensive effort allowed Roman Polak -- that's 13 NHL goals ever Polak!-- scored his first as a Leaf. The top line drifted on assignments in its own zone -- John Tavares and Kyle Okposo colliding in a hilarious mutual pick -- to free up David Clarkson for a long-range, seeing-eye shot through a screen to make it 4-2.
Please Watch That Guy: And then Thomas Hickey checked off just long enough to let James Van Riemsdyk's airborne delivery land behind him for Kessel to catch and release, beating Halak far post. Kessel is fast. Kessel has a devastating shot. Granted that's why he's so good and elusive, but ... should probably cover that guy, right?
More Injuries: Hickey's partner, Travis Hamonic, resisted coming out of the lineup after a practice injury. That, his minus-3, and the fact Hickey later left the game with a scary skate-to-face injury makes you wonder if the Isles will alter pairings with Lubomir Visnovsky about ready to return. Hamonic-de Haan, Visnovsky-Hickey, Leddy-Boychuk sounds like a great six.
But first, Hickey's face needed tending to:
Asked someone how many stitches Thomas Hickey needed to close skate cut under mouth. "Too many to count."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 22, 2014
But wait, he's a hockey player!:
The Early is Getting Later
We are only at six games. Nothing is Lebowski'd here, man. But the fun part of the early part of the season, when the seedlings (and the preseason injuries) are still showing their colors, is that each game adds a relatively tiny but proportionally large blip of data. So at 4-0 the Isles had taken care of business and beaten two good teams. At 4-2 they only barely beat three wounded teams while striking out against a rival and falling flat against a lower team.
It's all relative, pushed to and fro by hockey's maddening margins. I do suspect Toronto should be improved this year via depth and youth, but this game looked like so many recent Islanders meetings with the Leafs: A track meat, with one team's stars left uncovered long enough to make the difference.
Tonight, in the second period, with the Isles opening the gates, it was the Leafs' turn.
Hamonic, in Brief
"We have a different standard in this dressing room now," Travis Hamonic said. "This wasn't good enough."
Soft on pucks, too easy to play against, too slow in transition. Disappointment, but tomorrow's another day:
Tilted ice in the second, missed chances, big saves from Bernier, good things and bad things, "young guys learning what it takes to win" (Conacher? Hickey? Please not Strome?) etc.: