The Toronto Maple Leafs enter the All-Star break on a roll.
The Leafs completed a home-and-home sweep of the New York Islanders by overcoming a two-goal deficit and winning 4-3 in overtime at the Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night. Combined with a 3-0 win at home on Monday, the Leafs hit the break with 55 points, the same as Florida and New Jersey, in the race for the final two playoff berths in the East. The Leafs are ninth because they've played one more game.
Clarke MacArthur's goal 2:06 into overtime gave Toronto the win in a game it trailed 2-0 until MacArthur scored with 1:05 left in the second.
"We got it going in the last two periods and kept it going into overtime," MacArthur said. "We battled hard."
After some sustained pressure from the Isles in overtime, Toronto came down on a 3-on-1 break. Mikhail Grabovski, who drew New York goalie Al Montoya toward him and fed MacArthur, who was skating through the middle. MacArthur put the puck into Montoya's outstretched glove, but a video review determined that the glove was behind the goal line, ending the game.
"It was exciting, many chances back and forth," said goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who made 29 saves. "I'm really happy Clarke scored in overtime and got us the two points."
After Toronto rookie Jake Gardiner tied the game early in the third with his first NHL goal, Toronto went ahead with 3:31 left in regulation when Grabovski's shot hit the stick of Isles defenseman Milan Jurcina and fluttered over Montoya's shoulder.
But the fates may have gotten even with Grabovski in the final seconds. With Montoya on the bench for an extra attacker, Grabovski tried to rip the puck around the boards from behind his own net. Instead, it hit an imperfection in the boards and came right to P.A. Parenteau, who quickly ripped a 15-footer past a surprised Gustavsson to force OT.
After winning five of seven, the back-to-back losses were an immense disappointment for the Islanders (19-22-7), who are 10 points out of a playoff berth.
"I liked the way we responded after last night's game in Toronto," coach Jack Capuano said. "Last night our effort was there, but again we talk about execution, and tonight in the first period I thought we did to them what they did to us last night."
John Tavares, whose season-high 12-game points streak ended a night earlier, scored his 20th of the season just 1:54 into the game. Kyle Okposo threw a puck at the goalmouth from the right boards, and Tavares beat defenseman Carl Gunnarsson from the boards to the slot and zipped a shot past Gustavsson.
Josh Bailey scored his fifth of the season and second shorthanded goal in less than a week off a fantastic cross-ice feed from Matt Martin at 9:17 of the second. With Isles defenseman Travis Hamonic in the box for holding Toronto's Phil Kessel, Martin managed to get the puck out of the defensive zone and chase it down before crossing for an unmarked Bailey, who outraced three Leafs and beat Gustavsson.
Though only four penalties were whistled, the game was full of chippy play. Multiple skirmishes broke out after play ended, including at the second-period horn, when Kessel appeared to elbow Tavares in the face.
"It is what it is," Capuano said of the officiating after his team was not awarded a power play for the second night in a row. "If that's the way they see the game, that's the way they see the game. I just wish it had been a little more consistent tonight, that's all."
The Leafs enter the All-Star break with a good chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
"It's a good way to go into the break for us," coach Ron Wilson said.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report