Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 6-3 loss to the New York Islanders Tuesday at Air Canada Centre:
Not much defense to be found for the Buds.
It wasn’t Jonathan Bernier’s best performance in net – the veteran allowed six goals on 15 Islanders shots through two periods before being replaced by James Reimer to start the third – but by no means was this defeat Bernier’s fault. The Leafs were passive in their own zone, couldn’t solve goalie Thomas Greiss enough (despite firing 33 shots at him) to atone for it, and didn’t have a forecheck that pressured the Isles’ defence corps through the first two periods. Toronto allowed six goals in only one other game this season (a 6-1 loss to Winnipeg Dec. 2), and just as it wasn’t Garret Sparks’ doing at that time, it took a total team effort to come up flat Tuesday.
Former Isles produce offence.
On a night when former Leaf Nikolai Kulemin scored his second goal in as many games against his onetime employer, the Buds got the majority of their goals from ex-Islanders Brad Boyes (with his third of the season) and P-A Parenteau (with his ninth of the year). Parenteau’s goal moved him into a tie with Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul for third in team scoring, while Boyes’ marker (as well as an assist on Shawn Matthias’ third-period goal) pushed him into double-digits in points (11) this season.
The Leafs’ power play is ice cold.
The Isles gave Toronto four power plays Tuesday, but the Buds failed to convert on any of them. The Leafs now have gone two games, both against the Islanders, without a power play goal. You can bet head coach Mike Babcock and his staff will be working on it whenever possible.
Reimer looks good in return.
The Leafs likely were planning to put Reimer in net for Wednesday night’s road game against the Penguins, but the veteran was pressed into action a little sooner and looked sharp, stopping Isles winger Kyle Okposo on a partial breakaway and turning aside all six shots he faced in the frame. It was Reimer’s first game since a Dec. 3 tilt against Minnesota, and he’ll need to be in the sharp form he’s shown this season against Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and the Pens if Toronto is to get back on the winning side of the ledger.
Two games in three nights between the same two teams will cause some hard feelings.
The Isles’ win split the home-and-home series that began Sunday with Toronto’s 3-1 win at Barclays Center, and it’s clear these two groups of players have a robust dislike for one another. Tuesday’s game got nastier as it went on, and although the Islanders had a four-goal lead for most of the third period, the Leafs were in their faces until the final buzzer. The Buds and Isles play each other one more time this season on March 9 at Air Canada Centre, and don’t be at all surprised if both sides have long memories in regard to what happened between them as the calendar year 2015 came to a close.