Islanders 4 : Maple Leafs 3 (OT)
Tonight’s matchup brought about the final game of the Isle’s 7 game road trip and a chance to redeem themselves from their unfortunate outcomes versus the Wild and Blues. On the other bench…Toronto possibly flying a bit higher having just beat #8 and the other dudes on that team on Saturday night in a shoot out.
Kyle Okposo was called for hooking 39 seconds into the 1st period, not much came of it. Okposo’s second penalty for tripping (@5:30) opened a door to more intense hockey with the Isles mustering up a few chances at a short-handed goal. Once again at even strength we saw a couple of pile-ups in front of Vesa Toskala and some steady pressure applied by the Isles including a Trent Hunter – Matt Moulson – John Tavares combo ending with Moulson spinning around to shoot on goal, denied by Toskala but a nice effort and for Moulson, foreshadowing. The rest of this period brought about some ping-pong hockey, Jack Hillen in the sin bin for holding the stick of John Mitchell (@11:36), Alexei Ponikarovsky denied on a one-on-one with Dwayne Roloson, Trent Hunter’s shot that sounded like it hit the cross bar, and Mitchell trying to put a hit on Okposo which only seemed to cause discomfort for himself. Towards the end of the period Toronto was getting too close to Roloson for comfort, however little did anyone know that Roloson was in a zone that would define this game whether the Isles won or lost.
I was able to get back to watching the game seconds before the Isles first goal in the 2nd period. Ian White took a shot on goal, Mark Streit retrieved the puck off the rebound and sent it up to Jeff Tambellini who was already headed in the right direction at center ice - he continued to boogie down, Toronto’s defense MIA, then shoots one-on-one up high past Toskala (@ 11:04). About a minute or so later Hunter brings the puck out of a race for the puck match with Luke Schenn, sends it cross ice (a hold yer’ breath moment waiting to get past the potential interception/breakaway a cross ice pass can bring) to Hillen who sent it in towards the net only to be tipped in by Moulson (@12:23), his 11th goal of the season. In about as much time between the back-to-back goals Sean Bergenheim scored a short handed goal while Andy Sutton was serving two minutes for holding (@12:43). It was like Bergenheim had a quarterback split second moment, deciding whether to pass the ball or run with it – instead of clearing the puck Bergenheim chose to skate with it, cross ice (L to R) into an open pocket (rt. circle) that gave him enough space to send a wrist shot past Toskala (@14:17). It was at this point when Toskala left the game with what was later reported as a groin injury. The hope that the Isles would head into the locker room with a three goal lead was thwarted starting with Brendan Witt knocking Matt Stajan’s stick down on the ice behind the Isle’s net – puck rounds the boards leading to a four man dig between Freddy Meyer, Ponikarovsky, Tambellini and last into the mix Tomas Kaberle - his dig at the puck popped it out across the net, picked up by Stajan who had turned back to retrieve his stick and then came around the net wide open to give a short pass to Phil Kessel (two-on-one with Brendan Witt) who then scored and made it a 3-1 game.
Ending with a goal in the 2nd period must have lit a fire under the Leafs, they brought back their momentum seen in the 1st period which seemed to drop quickly after Tambellini’s goal. A few minutes into the 3rd period Wayne Primeau scored (@2:10) shortly followed by Streit in the sin bin for holding (@4:10). Even though the Isles were up by 1, at this point, the game outcome was anybody’s guess - with Toronto driving at the net, Isles doing too much chasing, Roloson exhibiting super powers but for how long? Ugh…Toronto scores and ties the game – Stajan passes to Niklas Hagman who blows past Meyer and then Roloson (@9:18). Camera pans to Coach Gordon who looked pissed. Who wouldn’t be? One last Isles penalty on Nate Thompson for holding (@17:04) before the period ended, into OT they went.
Roloson came up with a spectacular glove save on a shot by Hagman and Josh Bailey came up with a spectacular winning goal (@4:17) assisted by Bergenheim’s spectacular pass…BUT before the pass and goal happened was Bruno Gervais coming up behind Kessler and sending the puck in on net. The way he surged, the right timing, the right place is what I’ll remember most about this game.
So in the end Roloson kicks NHL butt at age 40 with a career high of 58 saves, Tavares and Moulson get a win with added bonus of Moulson’s goal, in front of their hometown family and friends, Josh Bailey shows up yet once again and Coach Gordon’s head did not explode…all is well.
Next up – Flyers come to town on Wednesday. As fate would have it, I will be at an event in Philly that night which means talking trash with Flyers fans and hunting for a TV. Oh joy.
Now that Tambellini and Bailey are off ‘code red playing less than capable’ radar…
Attention Blake Comeau - sooner or later you are going to have to decide whether it’s more important to be right or play great hockey. It’s not often that I walk into the Coliseum, watch a game and ask…WHO is that new guy? Top draft picks are great, so are raw pieces of clay.
LET’S GO ISLANDERS!!