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Islanders left feeling empty after 5-3 loss to Leafs

The New York Islanders (11-16-6) were left feeling empty after a 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs (18-13-4) on Friday night hockey action. New York was returning home from a 2-1-0 road trip, featuring back-to-back shootout victories, could not overcome a combination of the sleepy first period along with bad officiating in the final frame.

Wearing their black uniforms, the Isles had a sleepy first period of play, as Clarke MacArthur (10) gave Toronto a 1-0 lead on a wrist shot at the 1:43 mark. Approximately three minutes later Nazem Kadri (2) backhanded in the second goal of the game for Toronto on the extra-man advantage.

Carl Gunnersson connected on a long-range bomb to give the Leafs a 3-0 lead, before Kyle Okposo (6) wristed home the first goal of the game for the Islanders at the 15:45 mark.

Setting Okposo up on a beautiful pass was Mike Mottau (2); Kyle preceded to wrist the puck past the glove side of the Toronto keeper for the 50th goal of his career. The score was also the 6th in the last 15 games for the winger.

Leading the Isles surge on offense was the physical play of Michael Haley, whose four hits in the game proved to fire-up his teammates on the ice.  New York continued their positive play in the second period, as Frans Nielsen (5) connected on a wrist shot at the 0:40 mark.

Fans of the Blue and Orange had many scary moments as Michael Grabner, Matt Martin and Tim Wallace were all injured at one point in the frame.  Grabs was nicked on the cheek with either a stick from one of the Toronto players, or the puck that was sent in his direction.

That injury to Grabner sent the Islanders on a power play opportunity that turned out to favor the Leafs as Joey Crabb (6) made the game 4-2 on a short-handed goal at the 8:59 mark.  In the good news department though, all three injured Islanders returned to the game.

New York continued to fight and claw their way back in the third period, as a huge save by keeper Evgeni Nabokov (22 saves) on Phil Kessel, eventually gave the team momentum to cut the lead to 4-3 thanks to a goal by John Tavares (11) .

The Isles center was in the middle of a controversial play, as the officials ruled Tavares for diving at the 16:59 mark. It was during a collision with Joffrey Lupul that the play was called, and was hard to see where the dive happened.

At the end of the game though the Isles could not overcome a sleepy first period of play, as Lupul banged home an empty-netter at the 19:51 mark for the 5-3 victory.

For now the Islanders will get to enjoy two days off before Round Four of the Battle of the Big Apple on Monday night against the Rangers at MSG. Round Four is set to air on the MSG family of networks, with face-off slated for 7:00 p.m.

After that New York will have two days to figure out how to beat Calgary and Edmonton at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to end 2011 on a high note.

Written on December 24, 2011

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