I truly can’t believe that I’m typing this, but that was a good first period against a much better team. The Islanders utterly dominated, and got some goals to back it up.
Ryan Pulock got them on board with a blast from the point so tight under the bar that everyone needed a minute to realize what happened, and Mathew Barzal, who made a nice play to set up Pulock’s goal, added a tally of his own to give the Isles an early two-goal lead, his first in over a month. I don’t know about you, but I honestly had no idea he hadn’t scored a goal in that long - he’s that great.
Sometimes, though, despite their best efforts, they just get unlucky. They somehow didn’t allow Toronto’s dynamic offense an odd-man rush until the last few minutes of the first, but it resulted in a goal for Mitch Marner. All things considered, a great period with one minor, albeit glaring, blip.
A bit more even this go-round. The Leafs were awarded three power plays throughout the period on which they did not score, for one reason or another, and the Islanders ended the period on a power play.
To me, the most entertaining part of the period was Sebastian Aho’s whiff on the one-time pass headed his way and then all the way down the ice. Felt the wind on that one here.
Morgan Rielly was left wide open in front of Jaroslav Halak, who could only lift a meek glove at the surprising shot he faced, but Jordan Eberle answered back with a fluke shot that went off a Toronto skate and past Freddie Andersen to restore the Islanders lead.
The teams traded barbs for the next thirteen minutes, with the outlook bright for the Islanders. And then, to top Eberle, the Maple Leafs scored an even flukier goal: Jake Gardiner’s shot from the point was deflected on the left side and crossed the crease, in front of Halak, before it was redirected by the shin of Nick Leddy and in.
Overtime between two uber-talented offenses always promises fun and excitement, and this time was no different. For some reason, Adam Pelech was deployed with Barzal and Eberle.
In the shootout, Tyler Bozak represented the first attempt and the only goal, to give the Leafs the extra point.
Another point squandered in this playoff race.
In other news, Barzal now leads the team in points. My god he’s good.
The Islanders are once again owned by Patrik Elias: they will visit New Jersey when the Devils retire his number on Saturday night.