Tough, heartbreaking, emotional, those are only three worlds that could describe the New York Islanders (19-23-6) 4-3 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs (25-19-5) on Tuesday. Playing with a heart, grit and fire, the Isles were hungry to enter into the All-Star break with two points.
Instead it was a night filled with frustration, as the Islanders skated for a second game without getting the extra man advantage. It was an intense, physical game between New York and Toronto with many hard hits throughout.
John Tavares and Andrew MacDonald were both shaken-up, but thankfully returned. It had seemed as if Tavares was elbowed in the face by Kessel in the second period, with no penalty called on the play.
“I was pretty heated. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Tavares said. “I thought he (the official) saw it.”
Tavares had this to say of the game, “We worked hard, we outshot them and we had some good opportunities. We had some good bounces, especially at the end; we just have to take the point try to move on. “
‘JT’ reached the 20-goal plateau for the third time in his career, to open the scoring for the Isles at the 1:54 mark of the first period. Setting-up the Isles center was Kyle Okposo (14)and Dylan Reese (2), for Okposo the winger now has 12 points in the last 14 games.
Josh Bailey (5) finished a beauty of a two-on-one shorthanded goal at the 9:17 mark of the second period, before Toronto took over the momentum of the game. It was at the 18:55 mark when Clarke MacArthur ripped a snap shot past the stick side of returning Isles cager Al Montoya.
Montoya looked sharp in his first game back in the cage for New York, returning to action for the first time since sustaining a concussion on December 20. The Isles keeper finished the night with 17 saves, looking sharp in his return.
“It was an odd game for me. I felt pretty good after a month off,” Montoya said of his return. “It seemed like every goal that went in; there was a bounce on their side.”
One such bounce that turned out to go the way of the Leafs, was when Mikhail Grabovski (16) floated a wrist shot, that somehow bent into the back of the Islanders cage at the 16:29 mark, which gave Toronto a 3-2 lead.
Head coach Jack Capuano pulled the keeper towards the end of the third period, and that move paid off as P.A. Parenteau (10) jumped on the game-tying goal with 13 seconds left in regulation. MacArthur (14) scored for the second time in the game to lead Toronto to the victory.
“It is unfortunate that we lost this hockey game. We showed a lot of character coming back like that,” Parenteau said. “This was a huge game for us and it is a tough one to swallow. We are going to stick with it and come back from the break and come back strong.”
It had seemed at first that MacArthur’s game-winner was robbed by the glove of Al Montoya, but after further review, the puck was pulled back from over the line…as the Leafs skated away with two points and the sweep of the home-and-home series.
Montoya had this to say on the game-winning goal, “It was a two-on-one opportunity for them, their guy slid it back-door and passed it back again.” On if he was able to save the puck or not Al had this to say, “I knew it went in.”
So ends the first half of the New York Islanders season, as Tavares represents the squad in Ottawa the rest of the team will get some well-earned rest and will look to continue their playoff push in the second half of play.
The second-half begins for the Isles in Raleigh, North Carolina on Tuesday, January 31, when the Islanders take on the Hurricanes. The game between the Isles and Canes is slated to air on the MSG Plus 2 network, with face-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Written for the Examiner.com site January 24, 2012 seen below: