The New York Islanders – the team that Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans could once count on as the go-to when looking for a team to distract other hockey fans from making fun of the Blue and White – made the Leafs look bad on Thursday night. Really bad. It was the team’s second loss at home this season, and given they’ve only played two games at home, fans have become a bit perturbed.
The Isles came into the Air Canada Centre after two days off, following their Monday win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Leafs had spent Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, beating on the Penguins, and delighting fans with a 5-2 win. How could a team that had just steamrolled the Pens suddenly lose to the Islanders?! Because they’re the Leafs.
Let’s just ignore logic, the fact that it was their second night in a row on the rink… C’mon. Let’s be real. The boys were tired and it showed.
The game looked promising to start. A slapper by Carl Gunnarsson got the Leafs on the board only a couple of minutes in. Things looked promising. When the Isles tied it up six minutes later, the Leafs jumped back in the game. A quick follow-up goal by Nazem Kadri, with a Mikhail Grabovski netting one only three minutes later gave the team a solid lead.
Matt Frattin, called up from the Toronto Marlies to take Joffrey Lupul’s spot, assisted on both of the goals (and scored a goal in the third). Clearly he was the “NHL player who is going to be playing in the American League” as Dave Nonis said last week, and is proving why he should be in the NHL and on the Leafs’ roster.
The Leafs went on, failed to capitalize on two powerplay opportunities, made risky passes all over their end and somehow finished the first period with a 3-1 lead.
(There was some giggling and teeheeing by the end of the first over Evgeni Nabokov’s allowing 3 goals on 11 shots. The “Rick DiPietro watch” was on. That was not very forward thinking Leafs’ fans.)
By the middle of the second period, Leafs’ netminder Ben Scrivens had given up two more goals to the Isles. On the powerplay, Mark Streit got a wrister through Scrivens’ five-hole. Brad Boyes, a Leafs’ draft pick in 2000, followed up less than two minutes later to tie the game at three apiece. The play on the ice was sloppy and by the end of the period the team looked like they’d already played 60 minutes.
And then things really started to fall apart. In the third, the additional pressure put on Scrivens by two periods of bad Leafs’ defense turned into bad Leafs’ goaltending. The Isles added two more unanswered goals to the two they had in the second – the fifth Isles’ goal of the scored by former Toronto Marlie Keith Aucoin - before Scrivens was replaced by James Reimer.
Then… Isles scored. Leafs Scored. Isles scored again. The Leafs outshot the Isles 43-34 yet the Isles took the game 7-4.
Here’s a fun fact from Check The Ticker:
What else do you want me to say? I have a feeling I know what Randy Carlyle’s going to say. Heh. Tomorrow’s practice is going to be fantastic.
The Leafs start a two game road trip, heading to New York to play the Rangers on Saturday and then Buffalo on Tuesday for a rematch. Hopefully they can solve the Sabres puzzle rather than be discombobulated by it all season.
Here are some highlights from Thursday night, and because I can, I’m going to start with a fantastic save made by Keith Aucoin in the third period.
Mikhail Grabovski’s on fire again, scoring a second goal in as many nights. Check out this beauty.
Matt Frattin – the guy who was sent down to the Marlies only to be called up today to score a goal and assist on two others – scoring the Leafs fourth and final goal of the game.