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Islanders 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT): Horvat gives Isles 2nd early overtime winner in a row

Another tense meeting saw the Isles prevail after their former captain reached a milestone for the consolation point.

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders
It’s fun to hop on the ice as a mob and celebrate a win.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Bo Horvat extended his points streak to seven with an overtime goal as the Islanders topped the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3 in overtime on Long Island. That drama came after the Leafs forced overtime with just seconds remaining, on a Morgan Rielly goal that also gave one-time Islander John Tavares his 1,000th career regular season point and secured a standings point for his second NHL team.

Noah Dobson (up to 21 assists now), Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri each had two points, while Ilya Sorokin stopped 34 shots.

That makes two overtime wins in a row — in the first minute of OT both times — and a 3-0-1 start to a homestand that finishes up this week with visits from the Ducks and Bruins.

It was also another instance where the Islanders entered the third period with a lead they could not hold, but in contrast to a few weeks ago, this was an overall strong performance by the Isles, who again made due while missing three blueliners and working in two of their replacements. It was also a clean game, with just one penalty aside.

[NHL Gamecenter | Game Summary | Event Summary | Natural Stat Trick]

First Period: Slow start, good response

The Leafs pushed the play early and got on the board first, but the Isles recovered for a strong second half of the period.

First, with Robert Bortuzzo in the box, the Leafs got on the board with a really well worked power play goal. The Isles were close to a clear but William Nylander recovered short of the blueline to keep the play alive. Nylander sent the puck to Mitch Marner at the doorstep, and he touched pass back to Auston Matthews in the slot for an easy finish.

That came at 5:50, but the Isles started to wake up and buzzed by the midway point of the period.

They tied at 9:20 on a nice play by the Isles’ stalwart line, Pierre Engvall winning a forecheck race after a Noah Dobson dump to allow the puck to rim onward to Kyle Palmieri. The Isles winger found Brock Nelson backing into the high slot, where he unleashed a shot while eluding confused Leafs coverage.

The Isles kept up good pressure and finally pulled ahead late, with Casey Cizikas finishing from the top of the crease after a nifty pass from behind the net by Cal Clutterbuck, made possible by a Hudson Fasching forecheck.

Second Period: Push back, push back-back

The Islanders added to their lead early in the second, on a sequence that Thomas Hickey broke down really nicely on the MSG intermission.

It started with a missed breakaway outlet after the Isles won a neutral zone faceoff on their half of the rink. The outlet missed Palmieri by inches, but he was first to the end boards on a puck Ilya Samsonov declined to play or assumed was icing. Palmieri got the puck behind the net to Brock Nelson, who spun to elude a check and slid to the other side of the net, then fed Palmieri in the high slot for a snipe.

So things were looking and feeling good, but the Maple Leafs made a sustained pushback from soon after Palmieri’s goal and for the next 10 minutes. The Isles were a little sloppy, a little passive, and not giving board battles the urgency required. They got stuck out for multiple long shifts and icings that resulted from these slip-ups and lost battles.

One of them proved costly, as an icing was followed by a failed clear by Samuel Bolduc. The Isles returned to their structure but were a bit too worn, and John Tavares ultimately redirected in a point shot as he curled in front of Bortuzzo.

That made it 3-2 at 7:43, and the Leafs kept up the push for a few more minutes before things leveled off again. The Isles ended up finishing the period well, albeit without restoring their two-goal lead.

They came close though. Julien Gauthier used his breakaway speed for a nice rush to the net from the left wing boards, and Nelson had a clear breakaway from a long bank pass, but he couldn’t find his spot on Samsonov. And the in the dying seconds, Nelson won a should-be-innocent puck in the right wing corner and found Alex Romanov in the high slot; Romanov’s slot went by a screen and Samsonov got just enough of it to direct it off the post and harmlessly away just moments before the horn sounded.

Third Period: Not the ‘blown lead’ style we’ve grown to fear

The third period started cagey, and the first big chance didn’t come until a heart-stopping giveaway by Simon Holmstrom after Mayfield and Mike Reilly each coughed it up along the boards. Holmstrom was coming to the rescue behind the net, but the puck hopped off his stick and right to Noah Gregor in the low slot. Gregor made a quick move, but Sorokin was there with the blocker to prevent disaster.

The Isles blueline looked like it would suffer yet another injury hit midway through the period when Mike Reilly tripped and fell awkwardly into the boards behind the Isles net. He went down the tunnel, but he was back in a few minutes and didn’t really miss a shift.

Overall, it wasn’t a turtle-shell period for the Isles, even though they were outshot 12-4. A lot of the pressure came in the final minutes with the sixth attacker. The critical moments came down to lost repeated lost faceoffs at crunch time and failures to get a good look at the empty net.

The Leafs pulled Samsonov for a sixth attacker with two minutes left and the Isles had two long-distance looks at the empty net but to no avail. After Nylander loafed on a clear so much that icing was waived off, the Leafs nearly scored on the rush back the other way. John Tavares, who’d notched his 999th career regular season point earlier in the game, fed Calle Jarnkrok at the back door. But Sorokin was there for the save again.

With 1:03 left the Leafs called timeout, and Tavares won the ensuing faceoff, leading to some more frightening point-blank chances but Sorokin stood tall.

The Isles deflected a try over the glass with 16 seconds left, and Tavares won the faceoff yet again. This time, the Leafs finally converted, as a point shot deflected off Tavares’ leg (for an official assist and 1,000th point) to Morgan Rielly, who put in the equalizer with 6.4 seconds on the clock.

The Leafs bench emptied to celebrate the milestone, though it feels like that’s tempting the hockey gods when done at such a critical moment rather than in a mid-game sequence where there’s a little more karmic room for pomp and circumstance.

Overtime: Sweetness

Perhaps the hockey gods concur?

In overtime, the Leafs’ lethal weapons had the first crack, but the Isles’ big scorers had the last laugh. Toronto regrouped after their first attempt sailed around the boards and back into their own zone. On the reset, Matthews was allowed a shot from the left wing circle that Sorokin stopped. Noah Dobson retrieved and sent it up the wing to Mat Barzal, who zipped up the ice for a 2-on-1 counterattack, lofted a sweet pass to Bo Horvat on left wing, where he beat Ilya The Lesser upstairs for the winner.

Just 44 seconds had elapsed in overtime. The second point and the win belonged to the Island.

Up Next

This feels weird. That’s points in 12 of 13, and a 3-0-1 start to the six-game home stand.