Tonight was game number 300 with the Leafs for John Tavares and game nine against his former team, the New York Islanders. The Leafs have a 5 to 3 advantage in the matchup since Tavares came home to play for the Leafs in July 2018. Leafs rookie Nick Robertson was a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game. It’s quite perplexing, to be honest, and Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe hasn’t given a straight answer as to why Robertson remains out of the lineup. He did go out of his way to say there are a lot of perks to being in the NHL, so do with that what you will.
Just over two minutes into the opening period, Brock Nelson suffered some injury and was seen making his way to the Islander’s dressing room. The Leafs had a fantastic opening five minutes in this one. They hemmed the Islanders in their own zone for consecutive shifts for over two minutes straight. The Islanders didn’t register their first shot on goal till almost seven minutes into the game, pure domination from the blue and white. Good news for Islanders fans as Brock Nelson returned to the game about eight minutes into the game. The Islanders responded with a couple of strong shifts after the Leafs dominated the majority of the first half of the period. The Islanders would also get the icebreaker in this one on a goal from Noah Dobson, who fired a shot on net from the point that found its way past Erik Källgren at 15:21. The goal was Dobson’s sixth goal of the year, Sebastian Aho and Mat Barzal with the assists. The game’s first penalty went to the Leafs as veteran defenceman Jordie Benn was called for holding the stick. The Leafs managed to successfully kill off the man advantage as the first period came to a close. Shots on goal in the opening period were 9-7 in favor of the Leafs. TOI leader for the blue and white after 20 was Morgan Rielly with 8:37.
In the opening minute of the second period, Mitch Marner intercepted a breakout pass attempt by the Islanders, and he was cross-checked from behind, but no call on the play. On the following shift, the Leafs were generating more offensive zone pressure, and Michael Bunting was knocked down in front of the Islanders goal, and once again, there was no call. Bunting had some words for the official as he returned to his feet. The Leafs opened this period similar to how they started the first period, with a ton of pressure and several shifts in the offensive zone. Given all the pressure generated by the Leafs, it resulted in the first power play of the game for the blue and white. The top unit wasted absolutely no time as it only took eight seconds for the buds to tie this one up on a goal from the captain, John Tavares. A gorgeous passing play as Mitch Marner passed it down low to William Nylander, who one-touched it to the slot to Tavares, who rifled home the one-timer, his eleventh goal of the year. With his assist on the Tavares goal, he extended his point streak to 13 games. The goal went straight to the legs of the Leafs as they continued to hem the Islanders in their own zone shift after shift with relentless pressure. However, the Islanders once again respond with a couple of strong shifts of their own just like they did in the first period.
In the early stages of the second half of the period, both teams upped the tempo and traded chances back and forth for several shifts. The Leafs finally broke through and scored the go-ahead goal 14:06 into the period. Timothy Liljegren demonstrated great patience from the point as he held onto the puck for an extra second to find an open Auston Matthews in the high slot who deflected his ninth goal of the year past Sorokin giving the Leafs a 2-1 lead. Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin with the assists. In the final couple of minutes of the period, Michael Bunting was jumped by Cal Clutterbuck and Scott Mayfield, yet somehow it worked out to be five-on-five after all was said and done. The Leafs held the advantage in shots on goal in the period 13-8 and they held the advantage overall after 40 minutes of play as well, 22-15. TOI leader for the blue and white after two was Morgan Rielly with 15:28.
In the opening minute of the third period, Morgan Rielly was just inches away from netting his first goal of the year. He threw a backhand on goal that Sorokin managed to get his shoulder on. The puck then deflected up, bounced off the top of the net, then down off the bar but somehow stayed out. Seconds after that scoring chance for Rielly, he was involved in a scary collision where he went knee-on-knee with Kyle Palmieri. Neither guy saw the other, and they simply collided. Palmieri went straight to the Islanders room, but Rielly chose to test it out for a shift right after but he eventually made his way to the Leafs dressing room as well and would not return with what the team has deemed an upper-body injury. Matthews came flying through the neutral zone, and Oliver Wahlstrom stood up on him, making contact with Matthews’ knee. Rasmus Sandin wasted absolutely no time standing up for the Leafs superstar; he received a standing ovation from the Leafs faithful for doing so. The Leafs were awarded a power play because the Islanders had too many men on the ice. Sorokin absolutely robbed Marner thirty seconds into the man advantage. The Leafs could not add to their lead with the man advantage as the Islanders successfully killed it off. With less than five minutes to go, Holmberg found an open Jarnkrok in the slot who ripped a one-timer wide. The Islanders instantly went the other way, got the puck in the Leafs zone, and managed to tie the game up on a goal by Josh Bailey, his fourth of the year, at 17:02; the goal was unassisted as Källgren was the one who turned it over to Bailey. That shot simply has to be stopped by Källgren, just not good enough. Regulation would end with the score tied 2-2, which means the game was heading to overtime. Shots on goal in the third period were 10-7 in favor of the Leafs, and after 60 minutes, the shots were 32-22 in favor of the blue and white as well.
The Leafs win the opening faceoff to start overtime. William Nylander iced the puck twice on the same shift, he then gained center but elected to play the puck back, and in doing so, he turned it over, and the islanders went in 2 on 1. Thankfully for Nylander, Källgren bailed him out. Unfortunately for the Leafs, Anthony Beauvillier took a drop pass from Brock Nelson as they entered the Leafs zone. He made no mistake, ripping his fourth goal of the year top corner on Källgren and handing the Leafs yet another overtime loss. This particular overtime was some of the worst Leafs hockey I’ve watched in quite some time. Whatever it may be, this group cannot seem to figure things out during 3-on-3 overtime this season. TOI leader in this one for the blue and white was Justin Holl with 23:07.
Tonight’s Three Stars
1. Anthony Beauvillier: 1 Goal (GWG)
2. Josh Bailey: 1 Goal
3. Auston Matthews: 1 Goal
The Leafs get ready to head out on a four-game road trip starting Wednesday with stops in New Jersey, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and Detroit.
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