The loss was very obviously coming, but the Leafs made it at least appear to be interesting all the way until the final buzzer. An entertaining, vaguely competitive regulation loss? Tank Nation is probably ecstatic.
To be fair, this game wasn’t always poised to end in competitive fashion. Just a minute in, Cody Franson made a disastrous giveaway that Anders Lee capitalized on, swooping across to tuck a puck past Jonathan Bernier. Before the game hit the five minute mark, Casey Cizikas widened the gap, following behind on Colin McDonald’s drive to the net and putting home the rebound. By the end of the period, New York had outshot the Leafs eighteen to eight, and the situation seemed dire moving forward.
The Leafs looked poised to reverse the tide, however, and started the period in the same fashion that the Islanders did. Richard Panik scored his ninth goal of the season a minute and a half in, taking a hit, heading to the net, and getting a boards-rebound off of a missed shot by Korbinian Holzer. Two and a half minutes later, Panik threw Trevor Smith a high saucer pass, and Smith batted it home to tie the game. Toronto had control for the bulk of the second period, but at a little past the halfway mark, Lee regained the lead for his team, picking up a juicy rebound in front of the net.
The third period was very run and gun. Both teams were desperately trying to score; the Leafs to tie it, and the Islanders to go ahead. But both Jonathan Bernier and Jaroslav Halak were equal to the task. Eventually, the Leafs yanked bernier for the sixth attacker, but couldn’t convert.
Let’s go with Richard Panik! No matter what your feelings are on team results for the rest of the season, you still want the players to care about succeeding, and Panik looked like a guy who cared tonight. Having points on both goals is always nice too.
- The top line looked better tonight, at least from a possession perspective; both Bozak and Kessel were above 60%. The pressure is obviously on Kessel to produce, however, and he didn’t get on the scoresheet.
- Jonathan Bernier stopped 38 of 41 shots, which is a good overall performance. The goals he gave up weren’t particularly tough ones to stop but weren’t in blame territory either.
- Leo Komarov picked up an assist and was one of the better possession players on the team tonight. It’d be nice to see him get back in to form; he’s been a bit off his game since he suffered that concussion.
- The Leafs play their next game on Saturday, against Montreal. I’m not saying you should cheer for the Habs, but I am saying that PK Subban and Max Pacioretty are fine young gentlemen and very good talents.