The Toronto Maple Leafs mustered only 14 shots on goal against the New York Islanders, who fired 33 shots on James Reimer. . The reality is, despite those stats, the game was close until the last half of the third period.
The Leafs opened the scoring with a goal by Phil Kessel when all five Islanders skaters on the ice all got caught standing around watching the puck. However, Josh Bailey tied the game up for before the close of the first period on a beautiful feed from John Tavares.
In the second period, the teams traded goals. First, Matt Lombardi put the Leafs on top 2-1, but David Ullsgtrom, who played a solid game again, evened things up to put the two teams in a deadlock going into the third period.
Admittedly, I must shamefully confess that I was expecting the other shoe to drop. The Isles had really dominated the game, and if it were not for just some sloppy play by the Islanders at times, Toronto would not have been in it at all. However, how many times have we been there? A 2-2 tie in the final period was just not something I was comfortable with. What version of the Islanders would come out from the locker room for that final stanza, and would the Leafs manage to steal a game they were not in at all as the Capitals had done a short time ago?
Fortunately, the Isles got 3 goals from their top line, including an empty netter to close the deal. This came from a pair of Mat Moulson tallies sandwiched around a PA Parenteau breakaway goal. Yes, the top line rose to the occasion and got the goals when the Isles badly needed them. Once again, John Tavares, Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau helped to secure a victory.
Regardless of the playoff picture, 2 points is 2 points. To me, this was a big win for a team that really can only play for pride at this stage. It will be truly interesting to see how the boys close out the remainder of the season and if they can reach that 80 point level I would truly like to see them establish. If they could get their record back to .500 and finish strong, it would, at least, be a “moral” victory.
As some of my “blind observations” from the game;
• Kyle Okposo may not have shown up on the score sheet, but he had a very strong and energetic effort. He worked his backside off and took a crosscheck to the midsection at one point for his troubles. If Lady Luck would only grant him some goals ….
• Sometimes, it’s NOT getting into a fight that is important. What smarts shown by Matt Martin for not getting provoked into a scrap in the third period when the score was still 2-2. He hit everything in sight wearing a Maple Leaf jersey throughout the game, but he knew not to give Toronto any excuse to get back into the game emotionally. Well done, Matt.
• Once again, Patrick Flatley between the benches was a treat. Besides his humor, his insights and observations definitely add to the game.
• Yeah, I was one of the guys very much down on Evgeni Nabokov when the Isles grabbed him off wavers last season and he didn’t want to play here. However, he has won me over, and I was quite happy that the Islanders extended him for another season. They will need him next season as a net minder and mentor to the kids.
• What more can you say about the top line? JT and company came up big when the Isles most needed them to do so. Those guys can simply take over a game. As my brother observed at one point, if we could only clone JT ….
• What do you know? The officials actually called penalties on Toronto last night. Yes, folks, two teams played and for once, the officiating acknowledged that reality ….
• The more David Ullstrom plays, the more I like him. This is a guy who could very well make an impact next season. Confidence is a great thing, as Flats pointed out.
Next up is a visit to Tampa to meet the Lightning. I believe Gary will be at that game, so we should get some kind of report from him.
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