UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) - Peter Laviolette inspired his players by reminding them how good it felt to greet a new day in first place.
The New York Islanders regained the Eastern Conference lead with a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night. With goals from Shawn Bates, Eric Cairns and Michael Peca the Isles pushed their point total to 31, one ahead of the New York Rangers and two points better than the Maple Leafs.
"Peter had said it to us and we talked about wanting to wake up in the morning back in first place," Mariusz Czerkawski said.
The fans at Nassau Coliseum chanted, "First place, first place," for most of the third period, shortly after the scoreboard flashed the Rangers' 6-2 loss to Washington.
"I got goose bumps," Cairns said.
Peca said the bench reacted with smiles to the fans' passion.
"They are so involved and so in tune," Peca said. "I can't tell you how excited I am."
The Islanders essentially allowed the Maple Leafs to take themselves out of the game with a series of second-period penalties.
"They took silly penalties," Cairns said. "We turned it into momentum."
Five consecutive penalties allowed the Islanders nearly 10 minutes of uninterrupted power-play time. Four minutes of that was the result of penalties to Maple Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph for slashing and then following referee Mike Leggo to complain.
"There was about a five or six-minute span when his common sense was nowhere to be found," Joseph said of Leggo. "He went brain-dead and that's not good."
The Islanders failed to score with the man advantage or a two-man advantage for 38 seconds.
"We had some chances," Laviolette said. "They blocked a lot of shots."
Goalie Chris Osgood kept the Isles in the game early, making several quick-reflex stops with his stick and pouncing on rebounds. He finished with 24 saves.
Cairns scored on a slap shot at 9:15 of the second, giving New York a 2-1 lead. Replays showed the puck went in off the skate of Toronto defenceman Bryan McCabe.
"I had lots of luck on my side," Cairns said.
Peca put the Islanders up 3-1, scoring a breakaway goal on a backhander through Joseph's legs. In the first period, Alexei Yashin fed Bates for a one-timer at 5:49. The assist for Yashin was his eighth point in the last seven games. Mats Sundin tied the game at 1 just 19 seconds into the second period.
Check out the full scoring summary
and event details