A better effort for the Maple Leafs, with the team salvaging a point in their 4-3 overtime loss. But issues remain.
Toronto opened up a two-goal lead early in the third period. James van Riemsdyk’s partial breakaway resulted in his first multi-point night since January 9th. It appeared to be the cushion that they needed to leave Air Canada Centre with two points. But the Islanders came on strong, showing why they are the class of the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
The New York rally started when Leafs forward David Booth took a holding call in the third period. The Islanders capitalized with Islanders forward Frans Nielsen beating Leafs netminder Jonathan Bernier to cut Toronto’s lead down to 3-2. 30 seconds later, Casey Cizikas tied it up and overtime was needed.
In the end, Jonathan Tavares got the better of Bernier, and it was quite the battle.
Tavares had four shots on goal and could have easily had a hat trick. But Bernier made some highlight-reel saves on number 91.
Ultimately, Tavares scored in overtime to lift his team to victory, basking in the thrill of scoring the winner in his hometown.
“Yeah, I mean it's great. A lot of friends and family,” said Tavares. “Certainly you get an opportunity to get one, especially in overtime, it's a good feeling. It's just nice to come through.”
Tavares has been known to have good showings at Air Canada Centre, registering one goal and four assists over his last two appearances.
The Maple Leafs shuffled up the lines, switching left wingers, giving van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul a different look. Peter Holland, Richard Panik and van Riemsdyk spent the second and third periods containing Tavares’ line.
"He's one of the best players in the world,” said Holland of going against Tavares. “He's so skilled, he's very good at making passes out there and he's so strong on the puck down low in the offensive zone that it's tough to contain him. But I thought my line did a pretty good job against him tonight, for the most part."
In the end, the Leafs failed to get a victory and it was the timing of the penalty to Booth that did them in.
“We took a bad penalty,” said Leafs coach Peter Horachek. “They scored on the power play, a rebound with four guys around the net. Don’t take the penalty, that’s my message.”
Special teams has been a bit of an eyesore for the Leafs in recent weeks, making the game turn around on a power play that much tougher to take.
Nielsen’s goal marked the fifth consecutive game the Leafs have surrendered at least one power play goal in the game and 10th time in the last 11 games.
The power play has been equally woeful, having scored just twice in their last 33 power play opportunities.
Despite his penalty woes, David Booth has made the most of increased icetime.
Booth scored the first goal of the game, giving him three-game goal scoring streak. He was able to get back onto the ice to start the third period, despite taking a skate to the abdominal area in the second.
“I thought my intestines were coming out of my body, but they weren’t,” said Booth of falling on Tyler Kennedy’s skate.
Booth required just a couple of stitches.
Bernier made 39 saves in a losing cause and deserved a better outcome.