Maple Leafs 4, Islanders 3 (Final/OT)
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Goals by Rob Nilsson, Trent Hunter and Shawn Bates got the Islanders to overtime in a see-saw battle with the Maple Leafs, but Matt Stajan's pair of goals were the difference in a 4-3 Toronto win Thursday at the Coliseum.
One of the Coliseum's favorite foes struck early to put the Leafs up 1-0 just two minutes into the game. When Garth Snow was unable to stop a dump-in behind his net, he got caught up on his goal trying to get back to the crease. That gave Alex Steen plenty of time to set up a pass, finding Darcy Tucker in front of the net for a redirection between Snow's pads.
After Toronto scored early, the Islanders scored late, tying the game with 21 seconds left in the period. A giveaway at the Leafs' blueline allowed the Islanders to even things up, as Jason Blake beared down on J-S Aubin. Deking left and right, Blake tucked the puck under Aubin and across the crease, but Rob Nilsson picked up the rebound, spun and threw it behind the goaltender for his sixth goal of the year.
The scoring got a late start in the second period, though the teams split a trio of powerplay chances. A slick backhand pass by Miro Satan along the boards in Toronto's end of the ice, sent Hunter in on goal. Hunter out-waited Aubin and defender Tomas Kaberle and flipped the puck under the crossbar for his 16th goal on the season.
Taking a page from the Isles' first period, Toronto came back to make it 2-2 late in the period. With Bruno Gervais in the penalty box, and John Erskine and Denis Grebeshkov trapped in their own zone, Toronto put on the pressure with the powerplay. Holding the puck on the wall, Nik Antropov fired a cross-ice pass to Mats Sundin at the left face-off dot that the Leafs' captain ripped on a one-timer over Snow's shoulder.
The third-period opened with a 5-on-3 the Isles killed off, but a smooth passing play minutes later put Toronto up by one goal. Carrying the puck into the Isles' zone, Steen slid a pass ahead to Jeff O'Neill, who quickly whipped it over to Matt Stajan in the slot. A hard shot beat Snow low to his glove-side.
Hard work and a crisp pass pulled the Islanders back into the game at the halfway point of the third. Hunter battled for control of the puck behind Aubin's net, and won it over to Satan, who curled out to the board. Spotting an oncoming Shawn Bates, Satan wired a pass through the defense to the crease that Bates tapped home behind Aubin, giving him 15 goals this year.
In overtime, it was Stajan again, as the Leafs worked the puck around the Isles' zone. Taking a short pass from Tucker, Stajan wheeled around the back of Snow's net, came out in front, across the crease, and fired a spinning wrister that found net to Snow's stick-side.
OFF THE ICE: Three Stars of the Night: 1. Matt Stajan, 2. Alex Steen, 3. Garth Snow... The Maple Leafs scratched Jason Allison (hand), Ed Belfour (back), Eric Lindros (wrist), Carlo Colaiacovo (concussion), Andy Wozniewski (shoulder) and Alexander Khavanov (shin), while the Islanders sat Mike York (toe), Petteri Nokelainen (knee), Arron Asham (ankle), Joel Bouchard (knee), Eric Godard (concussion) and Alexei Zhitnik (ankle)... Satan is the Islanders' career Leafs-killer, with 42 points in 41 games, and six points in four games against Toronto this season... All-time, the Isles have a 54-50-7-1 lead over the Leafs... After the final game of a four-game season series, the Islanders fell to Toronto 1-3, having lost twice in Toronto.
--additional reporting by Brian Bohl
Alexei Yashin on how the team's young players are rejuvenating the veterans:
"It's exciting to play with them. They create a lot of turnovers. I remember playing for Ottawa and I was one of the many rookies when we just started. It's a great experience for the guys on our teams. You look at the sparkle in their eyes, and it gives you a lot of energy."
On how the team is dealing with the impending offseason:
"We don't really talk about that. We are professional players and we want to play every game hard and play for each other. It's disappointing because the last three years we made the playoffs. Guys will take some time off and then start to prepare for the next year."
Garth Snow on going up against a hot Toronto team:
"Right from the drop the puck, we came out and played hard. Once we scored the second goal, they really picked up their play. They have some skilled guys and a lot of experience."
On the impressive play of the team's rookies:
"Those guys are great. They give life to the rest of the older guys in here. They work hard. All you can ask when you have that many rookies in a lineup is (for them) to play hard and I thought everyone did."
Shawn Bates on the makeup of the team and the valuable experience the rookies have received:
"It's a lot different than what happened in September. They played hard, and that's what the organization wants to see. Good luck to those guys when they go back down to Bridgeport (for the AHL playoffs). They get a little taste of what the NHL is all about. It's good for them to see what steps they need to take to become NHL players."
(55) Jason Blake-(79) Alexei Yashin-(21) Rob Nilsson
(7) Trent Hunter-(17) Shawn Bates-(81) Miroslav Satan
(10) Sean Bergenheim-(28) Wyatt Smith-(27) Jeremy Colliton
(15) Jeff Tambellini-(40) Matt Koalska-(48) Steve Regier
(14) Chris Campoli-(24) Radek Martinek
(38) Allan Rourke-(6) Bruno Gervais
(3) Denis Grebeshkov-(44) John Erskine
(30) Garth Snow
(39) Rick DiPietro
(23) Alexei Ponikarovsky-(13) Mats Sundin-(80) Nik Antropov
(18) Chad Kilger-(42) Kyle Wellwood-(16) Darcy Tucker
(10) Alex Steen-(14) Matt Stajan-(92) Jeff O'Neill
(28) Tie Domi-(46) Ben Ondrus-(39) Clarke Wilm
(15) Tomas Kaberle-(24) Bryan McCabe
(37) Ian White-(22) Luke Richardson
(8) Aki Berg-(3) Wade Belak
(30) J-S Aubin
(32) Mikael Tellqvist