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Leafs Let Point Slip Away

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Scoresheet | Stats

Column: Fighting It Out Not A Priority

TORONTO (CP) - The New York Islanders head to Montreal for Thursday's game against the Canadiens feeling like they picked up a bonus point thanks to an inspired 20 minutes of hockey against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Dave Scatchard's goal with 2:35 left in the third period capped New York's third-period rally in a 3-3 tie with Toronto on Tuesday night as the Maple Leafs let a pair of third-period leads slip away.

The point, though, clinched a playoff berth for the Leafs.

Combined with Montreal's 1-0 loss at home to New Jersey on Tuesday, the Isles (32-29-10-2) feel fortunate to carry a six-point lead over the Habs for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after being completely outplayed by the Leafs for 40 minutes.

Owen Nolan is fitting in quite nicely for the Leafs.
Graig Abel Photography
"I think we stole a point,'' said Isles head coach Peter Laviolette. "We fought hard at the end for a point but I'm disappointed with the effort.''

But it was a big point, and now the Isles need to go for the kill on Thursday.

"One thing we've been disappointed with ourselves is that we haven't taken advantages of games like that,'' said Islanders captain Michael Peca. "We failed to beat Boston, we failed to beat Tampa, and last night we lost to the Rangers. We're allowing these teams to either stay ahead of us or gain ground.

"We need to take advantage of our opportunity on Thursday. We want to end Montreal's chances of making the playoffs.''

Owen Nolan's second goal of the game at 11:28 of the third period, a terrific wrist shot over the left shoulder of Isles goalie Rick DiPietro, had appeared to rescue the Leafs after Adrian Aucoin and Arron Asham had scored 1:58 apart earlier in the third to tie the game 2-2.

But Scatchard deflected Janne Niinimaa's point shot between Ed Belfour's legs to tie it 3-3 before a stunned crowd of 19,388 at Air Canada Centre.

"I'm really proud of the way we came back,'' said Scatchard, who recorded his career-high 24th goal of the season. "The guys were really tired but we came back against a really good team. It's a great point.''

Alexander Mogilny also scored for the Leafs (39-26-6-2), who played two excellent periods of mistake-free hockey before going on cruise control in the third period.

There's even less excuse for the Leafs to let New York back in the game with the Islanders playing the fifth of a six-game road trip and second in two nights.

Leafs head coach and GM Pat Quinn has no real answer for his team's collapse.

"I wish I knew,'' he said. "I guess we thought we had it won and that team down there didn't quit. All of sudden we were a step behind.''

For two periods, the Leafs enjoyed most of the puck possession, cycling the puck in the Islanders zone and rarely allowing an Islander rush of any kind. Then came the first nine minutes of the third period.

Aucoin beat Belfour with a weak backhand through the legs from inside the blue-line 6:57 into the third period. Asham then stole the puck from Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle at the red line, broke in from the wing and beat Belfour high on the glove side to tie it 2-2 at 8:55.

This was supposed to be a memorable night for the 19,388 on hand at Air Canada Centre, one where Doug Gilmour was to play his first home game after being re-acquired by the Leafs at the trade deadline last Tuesday. Instead, the 39-year-old centre watched in street clothes as he continued to recover from a left knee injury he suffered in his first game with Toronto at Calgary last Thursday.

Nolan made it 2-0 Toronto midway through the second period, scoring into an empty net after Glen Wesley's point shot deflected right to him at the side of the crease during a power play. He has five goals in five games for the Leafs since being acquired from San Jose.

"We had them a couple of goals down,'' said Nolan. "They didn't get many or any shots early in the game. After that, we didn't have the spark that we needed to finish them off.''

Mogilny opened the scoring with 5:29 left in the first period, rifling a perfect wrist shot between DiPietro's legs from the left faceoff dot.

Mogilny and Darcy Tucker returned to the Toronto lineup - Mogilny after missing the last two games of a Western road trip due to personal reasons and Tucker after serving a five-game NHL suspension for attacking the Ottawa Senators bench March 4.

Notes: Joining Gilmour on Toronto's injured list was defenceman Phil Housley (broken foot), who has yet to play a game for the Leafs after being acquired from Chicago at the trade deadline. Veteran winger Gary Roberts (groin tear) was out a third straight game ... Winger Jonas Hoglund was suffering from a back problem while Paul Healey and defenceman Ric Jackman were healthy scratches for the Leafs ... Wade Belak played up front ... The Isles had no injuries to report ... The Leafs play their first-ever game in Columbus on Thursday and host Buffalo on Saturday.
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