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Five Takeaways: Leafs at Islanders - 02/06/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 6-5 overtime loss to the New York Islanders Monday at Barclay Center:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

Video: TOR@NYI: Soshnikov nets laser from the high slot

1. Leafs bounce back on Soshnikov, Matthews goals after Isles strike first, but Buds surrender tying goal before first intermission. Putting together strong starts to games hasn't always been a strong suit for the Leafs this season, and Toronto dug itself an early hole Monday when Islanders winger Ryan Strome scored his eighth goal of the year just 83 seconds into the first period to put the home team ahead 1-0.

But as is their wont, the Leafs answered back: winger Nikita Soshnikov netted his fourth of the season at 13:27 of the period to even the score, and 1:24 later, centre Auston Matthews took advantage of a brilliant pass from blueliner Morgan Rielly to register his team-leading 24th of the year and put the Buds in front for the first time in the evening. However, the Isles managed to tie the game with 1:47 left in the period thanks to winger Nik Kulemin's ninth of the season, and that's how it stood entering the second frame.

 

Video: TOR@NYI: Hyman nets SHG with gorgeous snipe 

2. Buds build two-goal advantage in first half of second period, but Islanders cut lead before entering final frame. The Leafs' offence can hurt an opponent quickly and repeatedly, and the Islanders got a taste of it in the second period. as winger Mitch Marner put Toronto ahead again with his 14th of the year at the 5:12 mark, and winger Zach Hyman posted his third shorthanded marker of the season and eighth goal at 9:34 to give the Buds a two-goal lead.

The Isles, meanwhile, weren't done scoring, either, and centre Brock Nelson's 12th goal of the year at 13:48 of the frame cut the visitors' lead to a single goal heading into the final regulation period.

 

Video: TOR@NYI: Nylander puts home Rielly's feed for lead

3. Isles pull even in third, but Toronto re-takes lead on goal from red-hot Nylander. Winger Josh Bailey made it a 4-4 game with his 11th of the year at 13:30 of the period, but winger William Nylander - who recorded his first career NHL hat trick in Saturday's 6-5 win over Boston - got a great feed from blueliner Connor Carrick and ripped home his 14th goal of the season with just 2:01 remaining in the third. 

It was Nylander's fifth goal in as many games, and an indication the 20-year-old rookie is as confident with the puck as he's been all season.

4. Leafs can't close out Isles in final two minutes, surrender OT winner on Nelson's second of the night. Nylander's late goal looked to be enough to give Toronto its second straight win, but the Islanders continued pressing - and winger Andrew Ladd knocked in a shot from close range in front of goalie Frederik Andersen just 32 seconds after the Leafs' goal to force overtime. Then, at the 2:42 mark of the extra period, Nelson scored his second of the game to give the Isles the victory.

Playing with a lead has also proven to be problematic for the Buds at times in this regular season, and their inability to hold off their opponent Monday will be a thorn in the side of head coach Mike Babcock.

5. Road trip ends with mixed results, and a need to cut down on goals-allowed. This was the final game of Toronto's six-game road trip that dated back before the all-star game break, and the results weren't optimal: the Leafs won just two of the games, and surrendered 22 goals in the final four games of the road swing. Andersen hasn't been at the peak he was at for most of the season, but he's not solely to blame for the large number of goals-against; rather, the problem is a lack of cohesion among Leafs defenders, and a pattern of high-risk taking on offence that often results in quick-transition chances in Toronto's end. 

Babcock had identified and corrected the issue when it was a problem early in the year, and with the Buds heading home to play the Dallas Stars Tuesday at Air Canada Centre, he and his charges won't have much time to correct the issue once again. But if the Leafs are going to make the post-season - and the point they gained in Monday's game did move them into third place in the Atlantic Division - that will be the long-term challenge.

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