written by Keith Quinn
If I’d have bet you the Isles would score seven tonight (that’s like 2 1/3 chilis) you’d have probably called me crazy, but thanks to big nights from Brad Boyes (1/2/3), Michael Grabner (2/1/3), and Matt Moulson (2 G) the Isles did just that and are off to a 2-1 start in this short season.
Boyes’ first points in an Islander uniform were all pretty. He looks to be a big pickup through the first three games.
The subscript to the big win was another borderline dirty hit on John Tavares by Isles nemesis Dion Phaneuf. Once again, after his transgression, he ran around behind teammates to avoid owning up. However, the best part was how he gutlessly gave up the puck to avoid Carkner and put it directly on Matt Moulson’s stick for his second goal of the game and really, the dagger that gave the Isles too big of a lead for any comeback.
Here is Dion, um, Phaneuffing…or something:
The Isles gave up one of their trademark early goals en route to a 3-1 first period deficit in this, the first game of their five game road trip. The Maple Leafs were without their newly appointed alternate captain, last year’s second leading scorer and recent contract extendee Joffrey Lupul, but it didn’t seem to hurt their productivity any.
Carl Gunnarson got the Leafs on the board just 2:12 in when he sent a light slapshot toward the net where there was some traffic provided by Joe Finley and Tyler Bozak that may have bothered Evgeni Nabokov enough to misplay the shot.
Six minutes later Matt Moulson would get his first of the year of a Ben Scrivens misplay of a John Tavares shot. Moulson gathered the loose puck and lifted a backhand over the prone goaltender.
1:05 later, an unmolested Nazem Kadri would break the tie. The Islanders failed to get anyone out to the point man for coverage after losing a defensive zone draw. John-Michael Liles drilled a slapshot wide to Nabokov’s left that took a healthy carom off the backboards and went right to Kadri as Nabokov fell to the ice.
The Leafs added to their lead three minutes later when Mikail Grabovski used his speed to back the Isles up inside their blue line, creating a great shooting lane for himself to spring a wrist shot past Nabokov. The two defensemen on the ice at that time were Travis Hamonic and Matt Carkner, so perhaps this was a poor line change but those two players were very close to each other on the ice as well. The defensive positioning was poor on the play.
The Isles finished the period with Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner taking back to back penalties that put the Leafs on a 5 on 3 for :25 with the balance of the 5 on 4 carrying over into the second.
This period was definitely sloppy with poor zone entry for the Isles. The speed of the Leafs forwards neutralized the Isles backcheck and the Leafs were consistently able to get into the Isles offensive zone with speed.
The Isles were able to pull even in the second on goals from Mark Streit and Brad Boyes. Streit’s goal came on an Islanders power play with Grabovski off for the new and improved “closing the hand on the puck” rule. It was a pretty goal off a broken play as the Isles gave up a short handed 2-on-1 and turned it around into a 4-on-3 the other way. Tavares gained the zone and dished to Brad Boyes. Tavares kept skating to draw the defense away and Boyes found Streit cruising down the middle of the circles where he was able to slide the puck under Scrivens.
The tying goal came off another offensive zone faceoff. Frans Nielsen gathered a loose puck in the corner and fired a hard pass to Boyes who was camped in the crease for an easy (but affirmative) tip-in.
It may have been last night’s game on the road against the Penguins but the Leafs began to slow down in the second and the Isles dictated play outshooting them 12-9.
The Isles exploded for four goals in this one and took the game over completely. Michael Grabner netted his second of the year on a wrist shot off a pretty backhand saucer pass from Boyes. A little over a minute later, a strong cycle and forecheck resulted in David Ullstrom finding Keith Aucoin all alone in the circle to Scrivens’ left and he buried a wrist shot for his first in an Islander uniform.
At that point James Reimer replaced scrivens, and seven minutes later the Phaneuf play happened.
The Isles made it interesting allowing a goal to Matt Frattin and coming a whisker away from 6-5 when Aucoin saved a goal with some deft stickwork along the goal line deflecting the puck out of harm’s way.
Grabner would add an ‘in your face’ empty netter poking the puck past Phaneuf, then turning him inside out and outworking Phil Kessel along the boards to wrist one home.
It’s tough to tell which Islander team showed up tonight considering the Leafs were coming off a game last night and the general state of their goaltending. The Isles are going to need more consistent play and they simply have to avoid falling behind early like this. Other teams will be able to clamp down the defense