LEAFS HAVE COMPETITIVE FIRST PERIOD, BUT GIVE UP ONLY GOAL OF FRAME TO TRAIL 1-0 IN INTERMISSION
The Maple Leafs entered Saturday's game riding a five-game win streak -the third time Toronto has won five in a row this season - and they were taking on an Islanders squad that had won two consecutive games. The first period was a fairly evenly-matched frame, with both teams firing 10 shots on net at the opposition's goaltender; but it was the Isles who scored the only goal of the period when forward Valtteri Filppula netted his ninth of the season at the 9:35 mark.
The Buds trailed at the start of the second period, but they were only one goal away from tying it and resetting things. Unfortunately, that's not how the middle frame unfolded.
ISLES TAKE COMMANDING LEAD AFTER BARZAL NETS HAT TRICK IN SECOND PERIOD
The Leafs and Isles each had 10 shots in the first period, but Toronto's defensive efforts - and their offensive breakouts, for that matter - were severely lacking in the second period. And the Islanders took full advantage, with forward Mathew Barzal scoring three goals (including a power play marker) in the first 10:33 of the second to put the visitors up 4-0.
Toronto's zone entries were inconsequential, their defence was sloppy, and the Islanders did a solid job of collapsing in front of goalie Robin Lehner to minimize the Leafs' follow-up scoring chances. All-in-all, the Leafs' execution simply wasn't there, and the Islanders capitalized to put themselves in the driver's seat as the third period began.
LEAFS CAN'T PRODUCE ANY OFFENCE, HAVE FIVE-GAME WIN STREAK SNAPPED
Toronto showed more spunk in the third period, outshooting the Islanders 9-5 through the first 12 minutes of the frame, but Lehner was solid between the pipes for them, and New York's defenders continued to do a good job of getting in front of shot attempts and closing off lanes. The Leafs couldn't produce any offence - getting shut out for only the second time this year - but they'll have plenty of time to prepare for their next opponent: the Minnesota Wild arrive in town Jan. 3 for a very rare 2 p.m. start in the Buds' "Next Generation Game", giving Toronto a full four days to shake off this loss and focus on beginning another win streak.