Isles Hang Tough, Hand Leafs A Home Loss As The Quest For The Playoffs Continues


There is a saying, most often associated with old time hockey, that says, "how can you beat em on the ice if you can't beat em in the alley?" Well, the New York Islanders certainly must have felt that way tonight as they skated to a 5-3 regulation victory over the hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs, who lead the league in fighting majors, jumped out to a quick two goal advantage in the first period.

The Isles responded almost immediately with fights. First Matt Carkner took on Toronto tough guy Frazer McLaren. After that tilt, Eric Boulton dropped the gloves against another leaf enforcer Colton Orr.

That really seemed to shake the cob webs from the Islanders players' heads as they went on to score five unanswered goals to secure yet another road victory, their 13th of the season.

The Islanders controlled the play for the vast majority of the game, outshooting Toronto 38 to 21. Not only did they outshoot the Leafs, the Isles seemed to have better quality chances overall. The team played a solid defensive game for most of the night against high scoring Toronto, keeping the puck out on the boundaries and virtually eliminating odd man chances and shots from out front.

The big exceptions were the two early Leafs goals and the stat-padding power play goal in the final seconds.

Things started well for New York as they were able to draw two quick penalties on the Leafs, granting the Isles an early five on three power play. Toronto killed off that advantage and stole momentum.

Toronto's scoring started off a rush from Joffrey Lupul, who skated in on left wing, blew past Isles defenseman Matt Carkner and beat Evgeni Nabokov before being crushed into the net by Carkner. (Photo credit: flikr/clydeorama)

96 seconds later, with Carkner off for interference, the Leafs struck again. Tyler Bozak fed Phil Kessel who passed across the front of the net to a wide open Cody Franson who tucked the puck home.

That was when the fighting started.

It is also when the Islanders seemed to regain their focus and take the play to the Leafs once again.

A few minutes later, Isles defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky passed the puck to John Tavares at the right faceoff circle. Tavares then spun a blind backhand pass across the slot to Brad Boyes who fired a snap shot past Toronto netminder James Reimer.

With Toronto forward Leo Komarov off for boarding, the Isles tied up the game. Visnovsky hit Boyes with a pass by the left hand faceoff circle. Boyes then ripped a shot that Matt Moulson tipped past Reimer. It was Moulson's 15th tally of the season. (Photo credit: flikr/bridgetds)

New York wasn't done.

Merely 81 seconds later, the Isles took their first lead of the game. Tavares skated into the Toronto end with Boyes on a two on one. Tavares kept the puck and drilled a wrist shot past Reimer.

For the period, the  Isles outshot Toronto 19-5.

The second period featured a lot of back and forth play without many whistles and only one goal. That goal belonged to John Tavares, his second of the game. Boyes skated in on right wing and came all the way down to the bottom of the right hand faceoff circle before feeding Tavares in the slot for the goal. It was Tavares' 26th goal of the season leaving him two off the league leader.

The second line got in on the act later in the frame. Kyle Okposo brought the puck out of the New York end and skated by a leaf defenseman creating a three on two. He fed the puck across the slot to Frans Nielsen who launched a heavy slap shot that zipped past Reimer for the isles' fifth goal.

Toronto added a power play goal in the waning seconds of the game while on a five on three power play with the goal being scored by Maple Leaf captain Dion Phaneuf.

The Islanders are now 13-5-2 on the road.

The win allowed the Isles to keep pace with the teams around them in the playoffs as Ottawa, the Rangers, and Winnipeg all won. The Islanders still have their three point cushion as they head to Winnipeg on Saturday for a very important matchup against the Jets.

-Donovan Brooks

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