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Kessel's two goals lead Maple Leafs past Islanders

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel was too much for the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

Kessel scored two of the Maple Leafs' four second-period goals in a 5-2 win against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

Kessel started the four-goal outburst at 9:04 when he beat Jaroslav Halak from the right circle and finished it at 17:53 by using his speed to outrace the defense and score his fourth goal of the season and 16th in 30 career games against New York. He also had an assist, giving him 29 career points against the Islanders.

"Special player, finds ways to score those goals," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "Difficult angles, big-time shot. They were goals that goal-scorers score."

Kessel's two goals matched his production in Toronto's first six games.

"I think he was ready to change his sticks altogether," linemate James van Riemsdyk said with a laugh. "I think he was ready to get rid of them and try something new, and 'bang, bang.' That's how it goes for him sometimes. He doesn't need much room to put it in."

Van Riemsdyk, Roman Polak and David Clarkson also scored for the Maple Leafs (3-3-1), who have scored 10 of their 20 goals this season in the second period; Toronto had five in the second in a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers on Oct. 12.

Jonathan Bernier made 34 saves, including 17 in an Islanders-dominated third period, to help Toronto end a two-game slide.

Nick Leddy and John Tavares had first-period goals for the Islanders, who've lost back-to-back games after starting 4-0-0.

"Not good enough at all," New York defenseman Travis Hamonic said of the Islanders' performance. "We have a new standard in this dressing room, and [our play tonight] is not good enough."

The Islanders missed the net on two superb scoring chances in the first couple of minutes, but cashed in at 2:48 when Leddy took a feed from Josh Bailey inside the Toronto blue line, eased down between the top of the circles and beat Bernier with a wrist shot over his catching glove. It was the third goal of the season for Leddy, who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks six days before the start of the season.

Toronto tied the game at 8:44 with some help from a fluke bounce. Hamonic's pass behind the Islanders net took a strange carom out of the right corner and came to Kessel. He found van Riemsdyk for a quick shot from the slot that beat a surprised Halak for his third of the season.

New York went back in front at 15:02 on a fortunate bounce of its own. Five seconds after Joffrey Lupul's slashing penalty put the Islanders on the power play, Johnny Boychuk's left-point blast missed the net, hit the end boards and came right to Tavares, who rifled home his third of the season with a shot from the right faceoff dot. It was Tavares' League-leading 10th point.

The Islanders dominated play for the rest of the period but could not add to their lead,

"We knew the early history of their hockey club is that they really come at you in the early going," Carlyle said. "They did that tonight, but we weathered the storm."

The Maple Leafs got even again with 10:56 remaining in the second period when Mike Santorelli started a 3-on-2 break that Kessel finished with a snap shot from the right circle.

Toronto didn't need long to take the lead. After a ferocious forecheck, Polak scored his first goal of the season by whipping a wrist shot from the slot past Halak at 11:11. The Maple Leafs continued to dominate play and made it a two-goal game at 16:21 when Clarkson's wrist shot from the high slot sailed through a screen and into the net for his second of the season.

"At times we seemed really stagnant; we weren't moving our feet and our transition game was really slow in the second period," Tavares said. "We have to realize what's bringing us success when we were winning."

It became a three-goal game 92 seconds later when Kessel outraced Thomas Hickey to chase down van Riemsdyk's clearing pass and beat Halak again to make it 5-2.

"He looked at me," Kessel said of van Riemsdyk. "He made a great play."

Van Riemsdyk agreed that the play wasn't simply a dump-and-chase effort.

"There are certain times when I know he's going to take off," van Riemsdyk said of Kessel. "I try to put it into space for him to have enough room to skate into it and not too far so he can get a good angle. I threw it up there and he kind of did the rest with his skating."

Carlyle said the Maple Leafs got a forecheck going after being outplayed and outhit in the first period.

"We finally got things going in the second period when we decided we were going to control the puck in the offensive zone a little bit more," Carlyle said of the four-goal outburst. "We were rewarded for that."

Chad Johnson played the third period for New York and made five saves. Halak stopped 18 of 23 shots.

Hickey went to the dressing room early in the third period, holding a towel to his face, after falling along into the side boards in the neutral zone and being clipped by Santorelli's skate. He was cut and did not return.

The Islanders visit the Boston Bruins on Thursday, then have home games against the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets before a five-game Western trip.

"It's a long season. After four games we weren't winning the Stanley Cup and after six games we're not winning it," Tavares said. "We're disappointed with our effort and our overall game, but tomorrow is a day to get better and we have a couple of big games this week, so we have to be ready and we have to bounce back."


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