Photo credit:Thomas Salus-USA TODAY Sports
Tavares tallies 1000th point but Maple Leafs lose 4-3 to Islanders in overtime
By Joseph Zita2 months ago
After an impressive 4-0 win over the Nashville Predators Saturday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs headed out on the road the following day for their mini two-game road trip against both New York teams. Last night, they entered UBS Arena to take on the Islanders, who are John Tavares’ former team, and he so happened to be chasing point 1000 in the NHL as well.
If you weren’t sure who the Maple Leafs were playing last night and weren’t at your TV in time for puck drop, you may have heard loud boos blaring from your speakers, signalling the Maple Leafs were playing the Islanders, and the fans were indeed booing their former captain.
The game started pretty well for Toronto. They strung together four solid shifts from all four lines and were outshooting the Islanders in the early going. Mitch Marner even found himself on two breakaways, with one of them drawing a slashing penalty, sending his team to the early power play.
It took about a minute before the puck ended up in the Islanders’ net after a pretty passing play between William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews, who scored his 19th of the season, giving his club the 1-0 lead about six minutes into the first period.
Although the Matthews goal silenced UBS Arena for a little bit, they quickly became noisy again once Tavares hopped over the boards, and I’m not sure if that fueled the Islanders or not because Brock Nelson beat Samsonov with a shot he probably should’ve stopped, answering the Matthews goal less than four minutes later. That Nelson goal went straight to New York’s feet because they turned it up. Whenever they entered Toronto’s zone, the Maple Leafs looked lost defending. New York’s forecheck, which always seems to give Toronto trouble, was evident in the first period, and it benefited the Islanders again late.
Morgan Rielly and Jake McCabe both went to chase Hudson Fasching in the corner, Max Domi was late to the Maple Leafs net, and Mitch Marner looked lost out of position, allowing Casey Cizikas an easy goal to take the 2-1 lead with a minute and a half remaining. Toronto entered the first intermission down 2-1, outshot 15-9, and got dominated on the high-danger chances five-on-five 10-3.
Whatever Sheldon Keefe said to his team during the first intermission after falling behind 2-1, despite scoring first, did not work. It took 1:10 for the Islanders to get their third goal, as Kyle Palmieri snapped one past Samsonov from distance to give his team a two-goal lead very early in the second period. Down by two goals after scoring first on the road, Toronto needed to make a push to get back in the game. Well, who else but the man searching for points 999 and 1000 to get his team back within one goal?
It was a bounce-back shift from the Maple Leafs, and they did a good job working the puck from low to high. Bertuzzi fed Timmins at the point, who gave a D-to-D pass to McCabe, who gave it right back to Timmins, who then made a great pass toward the front of the net to Tavares for the tip-in, and got the captain within one point of the milestone.
Whether it was the Tavares goal or the Palmieri goal to give the Islanders the 3-1 lead a minute into the second period, Toronto had a much better period than the first. They outshot their opponent 14-11, had the edge in high-danger chances at five-on-five 5-3, and looked more engaged throughout the entire 20 minutes.
If Toronto wanted to come back in this game and pull off the two-goal comeback on the road, they had to replicate their performance for the third period and play smart hockey. They entered the second intermission down 3-2 but looked much better as the game progressed.
After a solid push from Toronto in the second period to get themselves back within a goal, it was quite the opposite to start the third period, and it went on through the first 10 minutes or so. Both teams didnt generate much, if at all, and combined for four shots midway through the final period of regulation, despite the Maple Leafs needing another push here to tie the game up at three.
It was honestly a snooze fest of a third period until about five minutes left in regulation when Toronto started to make their push in an attempt to tie the game and force overtime. At the midway mark of the period, they managed just two shots on goal. From that point until the final horn, they finished with 14, and in that time, tied the game up at three with seconds remaining on the clock.
With less than 10 seconds left, Nylander fired a shot from the high slot, Tavares redirected it to the right of Sorokin, and Rielly, unmarked, potted home the loose puck, giving Tavares point number 1000 on his career.
Toronto and New York headed to overtime tied at three, giving Toronto a point in 12 of their last 14 games (9-2-3).
Overtime did not last long. After an emotional game-tying goal from Morgan Rielly with 6.4 seconds left, assisted by John Tavares, the Islanders weren’t going to allow Toronto to get the win in their barn either. It took New York 46 seconds to win the game after a two-on-one formed when Matthews and Marner missed their scoring chance to begin the period. Mathew Barzal fed Bo Horvat on the odd-man rush, and Horvat roofed his 10th of the season over a sliding Samsonov to win the game in front of their home fans.
Who stood out:
John Tavares and Auston Matthews.
These two guys stood out in a big way last night despite the overtime loss, and it’s hard to overlook how they performed. Tavares needed just two more points to reach the 1000 mark in his career, and it would’ve been extra special if he did it against the team he used to play for. Well, he did it. He scored and assisted on the game-tying goal, reaching that incredible milestone on the first night of the Dads trip.
Auston Matthews scored his 19th of the season, giving him five goals in his last four games. He is indeed back. Although he only scored one goal, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. The 25-year-old registered 11 shots on goal and 16 shot attempts, generating an xGF of 2.05, according to naturalstattrick.com. Oh, and he also hit the post twice. He easily could’ve had another hat trick this season if it wasn’t for the post and the incredible game from Ilya Sorokin.
The special teams had another great game. They only had one power play attempt and only had to kill one penalty, but they both went 100% and have continued to be a bright spot for this team. Ever since returning from Sweden, Toronto’s penalty kill has gone 20-for-21 (95.2%) and has improved their season percentage to 80.8%, which is good enough for 15th in the NHL. If you weren’t aware, their penalty kill was hovering in the low 70s for a long time, ranking them toward the bottom of the league before this hot stretch.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game tonight on TSN4 when they close out their mini two-game road trip against the New York Rangers. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
Recent articles from Joseph Zita