The New York Islanders went into Toronto with one point separating them from the Maple Leafs and did not play poorly until the score spiraled out of control such that playing poorly became the logical result.
What ended in a 7-1 laugher for the Leafs did not start out that way. Outside of the scoreboard, first-period and even second-period play was fairly even. But an Adam Pelech-to-Alan Quine mistake in the 12th minute gave the Leafs a 1-0 lead, and a bounce and soft coverage allowed the Leafs to double that lead with 32 seconds left in the first.
At various times the Isles were close to getting back in the game on the scoreboard — Brock Nelson hitting the crossbar, John Tavares being robbed by Frederik Andersen — but Isles power plays misfired and it wasn’t to be.
By the end, what started as some tough luck became the ugliest performance under Doug Weight’s tenure as interim head coach.
After a fluke bounce had William Nylander extend Toronto’s lead to 3-0, Jason Chimera got one back thanks to a well-taken penalty shot — which rather comically gives him the only point on an ugly Isles stat sheet. But the Leafs held serve to keep a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Then the third period happened, and that’s best left forgotten.
Though the Isles outshot the Leafs 28-21 through two periods, they rolled over in the third, outshot 20-6 and outscored 3-0. The team they beat in a comeback overtime win a week ago exacted hard, stinging revenge.
Thomas Greiss was mercy-pulled 11:51 into the third after Auston Matthew’s second goal made it 6-3, yet the Isles still conceded chances. Jean-Francois Berube faced seven shots in eight minutes of work and conceded the final goal.
All in all, a game to forget. But it was a missed opportunity against the primary wild card foe, so it’s also a game to mourn and remember if they want to complete an unlikely resurrection of their season under Doug Weight.
Another big one. Thursday, at home, to the Rangers.