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A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Good Times End in Overtime

Islanders 2: Maple Leafs 3 (OT)

The Maple Leafs really like overtime, it seems.

Having gone seven straight games with the opportunity to get one point or more, it was business as usual last night, as Mikhail Grabovski netted the game-winner in what was a somewhat strange game at the Air Canada Centre.

It started off with Joey MacDonald in net, Martin Gerber starting in place of an injured Vesa Toskala (who is out for the season along with Mike Van Ryn), and the Leafs making Joey the victim first, with Lee Stempniak finding a way to get the puck between his pads. The Islanders responded 15 seconds later, with Kyle Okposo making the second effort and putting the puck past Gerber for his (now team-leading) 15th goal of the season. Then Josh Bailey made a great play keeping the puck in the Toronto zone when it looked as though it were heading out, headmanning a play to Blake Comeau that got in thanks to the screen by Mike Iggulden. This was all in the span of one minute, by the way- and I mean all three goals scored. Talk about a great end to the first period.

That said, you would have thought that the second period would bring more scoring. Although much more spirited than the first, it also brought quite a few penalties, including two 5-on-3 opportunities that gave the Isles some more opportunities that they couldn't capitalize on. Andy Hilbert and Mark Streit together had two of the best chances on one opportunity that hit each side of the net. One thing I was very surprised and somewhat worried to see was Streit making a couple of very un-Streitlike mistakes. He missed the net quite a bit in this game, but took plenty of shots, and also gave the puck away at the point at least three times. Of course, we all have an off game once in a while, but just the fact that he has been so strong all season makes these goofups a bit disconcerting. The Leafs, meanwhile, protected their goaltender very well, and Gerber made some good saves when he needed to. One thing the Isles didn't do was test him too much up high, which could have been to their benefit had they done so.

What might have been the Isles' best PP cycle was in the third period. First, they did a great job holding the puck as long as they did on the delayed penalty situation, to ensure that they would get almost the entire length of time on the man-advantage in the third. Then, they had some great movement that provided some quality shots at Gerber, and spent practically the whole time in Toronto's zone to start. Then, once Toronto got back into the Isles' zone with the puck, Bruno Gervais ended up boarding Stempniak, and Stempniak took offense. What resulted was one of two fights (Tim Jackman and Phil Oreskovic duked it out in the first), and in this one Bruno surprisingly held his own. On the resulting penalty, Dean McAmmond raced out past a Toronto player on a shorthanded breakaway chance, but hit the side of the net. On the other end, MacDonald made some great saves to keep the Isles up a goal, but soon after, Alexei Ponikarovsky found the puck on a giveaway by Radek Martinek, skated in and scored.

For the rest of the third period, the Isles tried their best to get back the lead, but did so without one of their best forwards for the time being. Sean Bergenheim skated off the ice with what looked to be an apparent groin injury. No telling what his condition is or whether he will be out of the lineup at the moment. Toronto got plenty of pressure on MacDonald and the defense late in the period, but thankfully couldn't finish, and the game went to OT.

As it turns out, the Leafs only needed 50 seconds, and Grabovski ended up with the game-winner, after Anton Stralman's initial shot was blocked and kicked to the left. Ponikarovsky found it and passed to Grabovski, who scored with MacDonald at the top of his crease, out of position. The Leafs got the extra point, and the Isles skated off with tomorrow night's matchup against Montreal to look forward to.

Now, I know what some of you may be waiting for, and I'll tell you this much: even though Brendan Witt was back in the lineup against the team he committed his elbowing penalty against, there really wasn't much they did regarding him. He had a pretty strong game, though, and it's good to see him back on the blueline. However, even with his newfound presence, the Isles couldn't get the two points in the first of what is a six-game road trip.

Notes: Josh Bailey has points in three straight games now... the Leafs are now 8-13 in OT... the Isles outshot the Leafs 30-28 and went 0-for-5 on the PP, only committing two penalties themselves (nice job, boys)... Joel Rechlicz is back in the lineup and logged 7:07 TOI... the Isles are now (I believe) 1-19-2 in 22 road games.

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