Maple Leafs 3, Islanders 2
The Toronto Maple Leafs figured out Dwayne Roloson and the New
York Islanders. Now they will try to do the same against the Boston
Jason Blake knocked home a bouncing puck with less than 5
minutes remaining against his former team, and the Maple Leafs held
on for a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night.
Roloson stole a win the last time New York visited Toronto,
stopping 58 shots on Nov. 23. The Islanders were a little
unfortunate this time as Blake’s winning goal came when the puck
hit fellow forward Mikhail Grabovski’s skate in the corner and
squirted in front.
Francois Beauchemin and Ian White also had goals for Toronto
The Maple Leafs were left with little time to savor the win
before their focus shifted to the Bruins, who will host Toronto on
Thursday. Boston beat the Maple Leafs 7-2 on Saturday.
“I’m glad we’re playing the Bruins again,” Maple Leafs coach
Ron Wilson said. “We can’t play any worse than we did the last
It means even more to Phil Kessel, in his first season with
Toronto after starting his career with Boston. Kessel is facing his
former team for the second time in a span of six days, and had his
worst game of the season in the previous meeting.
“I struggled,” he said. “I don’t think I can go in there
again and struggle like that. … We’ve got to go in and win.”
Toronto came dangerously close to blowing Wednesday’s game after
appearing in control through 40 minutes.
The Leafs had a 2-0 lead heading into the third period, but
allowed Islanders rookie John Tavares to score twice on the power
play. Blake scored after Grabovski pressured Mark Streit, prompting
the Islanders defenseman to turn over the puck.
“I had some other opportunities in the game that didn’t pan
out,” Blake said. “You’ve just got to keep working and stay
positive, hopefully get a bounce. Fortunately, it went in.”
Tavares, the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, had both goals for
the Islanders (11-13-7) for the second straight night, but neither
effort was enough for a win. New York was beaten 6-2 at
Philadelphia on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old Tavares, an Ontario native, has 15 goals in 31
“It’s good to contribute, but at the end of the day it really
doesn’t matter a whole lot,” Tavares said. “It’s too bad we
weren’t able to at least get the point.”
Roloson wasn’t tested nearly as much during this visit to
Toronto. Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was hoping for an early goal
to keep him from feeling “invincible” in the building.
He got his wish after Matt Moulson took the first of two minor
penalties in the opening period.
Beauchemin one-timed Tomas Kaberle’s pass through traffic that
beat Roloson between the legs at 6:04. It was Toronto’s first
power-play goal in five games.
The Leafs went ahead 2-0 just 1 second after Moulson stepped out
the penalty box following his second penalty. Ian White scored his
fifth goal of the season by wiring a shot over Roloson’s right pad
That provided a seemingly comfortable lead over the Islanders,
who finished a stretch in which they played 14 of 17 on the
Toronto’s Vesa Toskala wasn’t tested much through 40 minutes,
although he made a couple nice saves on Kyle Okposo in the second
The game tightened after the Islanders were given a lengthy
5-on-3 period early in the third period. Tavares scored his first
of the night by scoring from in close at 1:32.
He pumped his left fist after netting a goal against his
favorite childhood team for the first time. It didn’t take long for
Tavares tied it 2-2 at 11:54 on another Islanders power play,
tapping home a nice pass from Okposo. All four of his goals in his
two-night spurt were scored from about 5 feet away from the net. He
leads NHL rookies in goals.
“He’s found a home in that spot off the side of the net, and
he’s been able to bury them,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said.
“It’s good to see because early in the season he had a few
opportunities that he didn’t cash in on and I know he was
frustrated, but he’s finding them now.”
The Maple Leafs had a power-play opportunity shortly after, but
couldn’t get a shot past Roloson. Blake, who played for the
Islanders from 2001-07 before signing with Toronto, scored his
fifth of the season at 15:55.
The Maple Leafs, who started 0-7-1, are 6-2 since their loss to
the Islanders last month, and have moved within five points of
eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
“We have to put our foot on the gas and play our best hockey
every night,” Blake said. “Last game when we played in Boston, we
didn’t do that.”
NOTES: Leafs D Jeff Finger was a healthy scratch for the second
straight game. … Toronto D Luke Schenn played his 100th NHL game.
… Tavares got caught out for a shift that lasted more than 2
minutes in the second period.