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Leafs 5, Islanders 3

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

The New York Islanders conceded an early lead and dropped their second straight game, losing 5-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders went down 3-0 eleven minutes into the first period, but battled back to 3-2 before Joey Crabb scored the game-winner on a shorthanded rush.

“We came out flat,” Matt Moulson said. “We had to battle hard to get back in it…it’s tough to win games when you spot teams three goals.”

Crabb finished off the shorthanded give-and-go with Tyler Bozak, corralling the puck around an Evgeni Nabokov poke-check. The Islanders responded again with a goal midway through the third to make it 4-3, but that was as close as they would come.

“We just got to understand games like these, after tough travel weeks, days we don’t feel very good, we have to find ways to win,” John Tavares said. “Especially a team like this that we are chasing in the standings.”

Tavares scored the teams’ third goal, after he received a pass in front of the Toronto net, showed patience and slid it by James Reimer. The momentum from the goal was cut short by a controversial call with three minutes remaining in the one-goal game.

Joffrey Lupul was called for cross-checking Tavares in the face, but the Islanders forward was also issued a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and diving. Instead of going on a powerplay, the Isles saw their man advantage disappear and momentum halted.

“They [the officials] have a hell of a tough job, but I thought it was pretty blatant, “Tavares said. “I just didn’t like the call.” 

Clarke MacArthur opened the scoring, beating Nabokov deep in his net on the high glove side. Just over two and a half minutes later Nazim Kadri found a puck and threaded it through for a powerplay goal. Carl Gunnarsson made it 3-0 with a shot from the point.

Kyle Okposo sparked the Isles late in the first period, taking a long, stretch pass from Mike Mottau beating Reimer low glove side. The Isles looked energized after the goal, drew a penalty and Frans Nielsen converted 40 seconds into the second period.

Nabokov stopped 22-of-26 and his counterpart, Reimer, stopped 30-of-33. Lupul added an empty-netter with nine seconds left in the game.

The Islanders get two days off for Christmas and take the ice again on Monday when they visit the New York Rangers. Puck-drop is at 7 p.m. Tonight’s attendance was 12,432.

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