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Islanders shred Maple Leafs 5-2

by Neil Acharya
TORONTO -- One night after being pounded by one of the NHL's heavyweights, the Toronto Maple Leafs fared little better against a team below them in the standings.

Matt Moulson's power-play goal broke a 2-2 tie with 6:04 remaining in regulation as the New York Islanders avoided a season sweep by the Leafs with a 5-2 victory at the Air Canada Centre.

James Reimer stopped a close-in shot by John Tavares, but Tavares wiggled the puck free at the side of the net and slid a pass to Moulson, who roofed his 31st of the season.

"I just tried to get it on net, a couple of whacks.  I know he is always there and I just wanted to push it, keep the puck loose and he is so good and just finding them and putting them in," said Tavares, who had three assists.

"It was nice to get rewarded on the power play, we had a few opportunities but also struggled a bit today."

PA Parenteau added a breakaway goal at 15:43 after a turnover by Phil Kessel, and Moulson hut the empty net with 1:25 remaining as the Islanders won for the second time in two games on a five-game trip that continues Saturday at Tampa Bay.

Like Tavares, Parenteau also finished with three points.

With two goals, Moulson set a personal high for a season with 32 and now has three straight 30-goal seasons. The 28-year-old, signed by the Islanders after Los Angeles let him go as a free agent in 2009, has blossomed on Long Island.

"I was in the minors and given a chance by the Isles and very fortunate of the situation I was put in when I came to camp," he said. "I don't think it could have worked more perfectly. I knew Johnny (Tavares) for a long time and got a chance to play with him and some great players. I have been very fortunate in my career so far."

Isles coach Jack Capuano credited Moulson's his work ethic for the late success he has achieved in the NHL.

"A lot of times Matty will credit his linemates for a lot of the success that he has," Capuano said, "but the one thing that he does is he practices every day to get better and it pays off for him in the games."

The Leafs, who managed only 13 shots on goal in an 8-0 loss at Boston on Monday, tested Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov only 14 times and were outshot 27-9 after the first period. The crowd of 19,351 spent the final few minutes expressing its displeasure with the home team after watching the Islanders outwork the Leafs.

After the game, the Leafs players had a closed door meeting. They did not reveal too much about what was said, although bench boss Randy Carlyle vaguely alluded to the nature of what was discussed.

"They were disappointed in the way they played," Carlyle said without elaborating. "Usually what happens in the dressing room stays in the room, if they players would like to tell you, I think it would be their issue, not mine."

Carlyle's players were not in a sharing mood -- not after falling to 3-10-2 in their last 15 games, spiraling the team out of playoff contention.

"I'm not going to get into details about what's said in our dressing room," said captain Dion Phaneuf who led all players in ice time by logging almost 25 minutes.  
"It's just the way it is --  you just don't speak of things that happen behind closed doors, and it's been that way for a while. Everyone is frustrated: We're frustrated, the fans are frustrated and like I said, we are not happy in our room with the way things have gone."

The game was tied at 2-2 heading into the final 20 minutes.

The Maple Leafs opened the scoring when Kessel wired home his 36th of the season after finishing off some crisp passing at 10:24 of the opening period.  From the Isles blue line, Mike Komisarek found Tyler Bozak, who then sent a cross-ice pass to a wide-open Kessel at the left circle. Kessel's shot went in and out of the net so fast that it was not initially ruled a goal -- but after a brief video review, it was ruled that the puck had crossed the goal line. Kessel matched his career high in goals, set with Boston 2008-09.

Tavares, like Moulson a Toronto-area native, set up the tying goal when he threaded a feed past an outstretched Luke Schenn and a backchecking Matt Frattin to Josh Bailey, who finished it off for his 11th goal of the season at 15:34, ending a seven-game goal drought.

"I just slashed through the lane and good transition by our D," Tavares said. "They were making a change and so were we and that's how Bailey got out there and just hit the hole and honestly it wasn't that tough of a play, I just saw him going to the net.  He's great in those areas, and I just had to get it over the stick and he made it a great play getting it over Reimer."

Toronto went ahead again at 4:12 of the second period when Matthew Lombardi, playing in his 500th career game, scored for the first time in 13 games.  Jake Gardiner sent to the puck to the backboards from the point and Lombardi was given a wide birth as Matt Martin and Dylan Reese seemed more concerned with preventing the pass to Jay Rosehill, who was parked in front. Lombardi, who looked like he wanted to pass, opted to shoot and beat Nabokov low to the far corner for his ninth of the season. With the assist, Gardiner now has 20 for the season, leading all rookie defenseman in that category.

Michael Grabner was the driving force on David Ullstrom's tying goal at 13:08. He carried into the Toronto zone, poked the puck past a Leaf defender and as he was twirling around to his forehand made a behind-the-back pass to David Ullstrom, who deflected it past Reimer for his third of the season, tying the game at 2-2.
Toronto almost capitalized on an Isles turnover after the Ullstrom goal, but Clarke MacArthur's low hard wrist shot was kicked out by the right pad of Nabokov. Reimer then made a big stop on Moulson in the crease with his glove to preserve the tie.

"I thought at a couple of times that he did look nervous but then he did make some big stops for our hockey club." Carlyle said of Reimer, who made 29 saves one night after being lifted in the first period at Boston. "The one thing that the goaltending situation is here is that it mirrors the group and that is as realistic as I can pinpoint it. The team has had its share of ups and downs, and we are looking for some consistency out of our group."
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