After a loss with a mangled lineup to open their new arena, the New York Islanders hoped a chance to make amends the next night might miraculously bear fruit. But the Toronto Maple Leafs, shutout themselves at home the previous night, were having none of it.
The Leafs made an early goal stand up, and showed a 200-foot dedication that we haven’t seen from them in previous meetings, to the Islanders’ skeleton crew to their sixth consecutive loss. Joseph Woll, making just his second career start, earned an easy 20-save, 3-0 shutout for the Leafs.
This is going to get annoying to re-hash through each game of this Adversity Journey 2021, but: the latest lineup carnage news before the game was that Anthony Beauvillier was back (yay!), having been deemed a false positive after missing the home opener for Covid Protocol. Alas, in his stead, Kieffer Bellows became the latest to go on that list (boo!), so he had to miss this game, joining Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Adam Pelech, Andy Greene, and Ross Johnston on the Covid shelf.
Can’t wait to hear who ends up on the Covid list tomorrow. They’ll join Ryan Pulock (out 4-6 weeks) and potentially Brock Nelson and Noah Dobson, who each had their night cut short by injuries.
First Period: More PP-induced pain
The Islanders fell behind early, again, this time on their third shorthanded goal conceded this season. (This, after giving up none last season.) A Cal Clutterbuck hold and a Wayne Simmonds slash had put the teams at 4-on-4, but Noah Dobson drew a power play with a nice aggressive rush up ice and into the Leafs zone.
With a 4-on-3, the Isles put four forwards out, and they didn’t seem to have a clear idea of who should quarterback or settle things down. After an initial clear, they regrouped but got caught when Mitch Marner took off for a homerun pass that connected from Jake Muzzin. Marner skated in alone, beating Ilya Sorokin with a backhand move after using a hip-turn to block out backchecking Mathew Barzal.
After that exchange of penalties and pain, the rest of the period stayed at 5-on-5 with the Leafs having the greater share of play, but the Islanders definitely got their looks. Chief among them were rushes involving Zach Parise, who continues to be relentless but completely snakebit. J-G Pageau, too remained a guy who is generating good looks but unable to finish.
It was abundantly clear that the Leafs went to backchecking school over the summer: Every time the Isles had a rush, including a few 2-on-1s, the backchecker was determined enough to make things difficult for the Isles puck carrier, usually resulting in less than full-power chances.
But one more factor set up what would be an underwater second period: Already playing so shorthanded, the Isles took another blow when Nelson, the only Islander to score at UBS Arena thus far, took a check on the boards near the end of the first, and did not return.
Would Isles be under the salary floor without Nelson?— Travis Flynn (@NDRedEagle) November 22, 2021
Second Period: Flailing in the water
The Leafs controlled play almost exclusively through the first 15 minutes of the second period, accelerated by two power plays that the Isles killed well but which ate up time. (The second, on a dubious penalty call on Kyle Palmieri, interrupted one of the few good stretches of Isles pressure in the period.)
As the Leafs power play moved the puck around, the crowd routinely booed John Tavares, who some will remember was an Islander from 2009 until sometime in 2018 or thereabouts.
After killing that Palmieri penalty the Isles resumed with more life, and had some power play chances after a late Jason Spezza penalty. But still, no dice. No one could convert.
Still, they went to the intermission only trailing 1-0, it was a one-shot game, so maybe...?
Third Period: Almost back in, then it’s over
The Isles were tantalizingly close to tying the game at 1-1 early in the third when Parise set up Anthony Beauvillier for an uncontested breakaway. Beauvillier had Woll beaten for a backhand deke, but Beauvillier lost the handle on the puck as he swung to his backhand.
Not long after, Ondre Kase — who’d generated several dangerous looks all night — converted a pass from behind the Isles net to make it 2-0. Grant Hutton had been beaten in pursuit on the dump-in, and Sebastian Aho had gone behind the net to anticipate him winning the puck. Instead, Kase was alone in front to beat Sorokin.
After the Isles PK worked yet again to kill off a Parise penalty, the Isles had one more chance to get back into the game — if only their power play were worth a damn. William Nylander’s penalty at the 10:00 mark (with 8 seconds left in Parise’s penalty) did nothing but eat 1:45 more off the clock.
That was Dobson’s last shift of the game, something that bears watching. He left for the dressing room and returned to the bench late in the period, but did not play another shift.
On a counterattack with 6:30 left, the Leafs rushed up ice and Marner potted his second by jamming home a redirection from inside Sorokin’s crease.
Sorokin ended up facing 40 shots. Even if he’d stood on his head and stopped every one of ‘em, well, yeah, probably a 1-0 shootout loss.
This and That
Shannon Hogan and the MSG crew are clearly having fun with the new building and finally getting to broadcast a home game, and the facility is really nicely lighted for TV broadcast. Hogan and Bob Nystrom took turns banging the drum for the Isles Army, and Hogan had a great interview with Clark Gillies during the first intermission. #FixThePlaqueTeeth
At least the broadcasters are healthy.
Up Next: Oh, oh it can definitely get worse
The Rangers, who beat the Sabres across town with a winning goal in the last second tonight, will make their first visit to Elmont on Wednesday. Which Islanders will be healthy and out of protocol?