Thursday, December 24, 2009

Islanders 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 1

The title of this post may be bland, but sometimes you're happy to come away with a win, even if it wasn't the most crackling contest. The Islanders did just that on Wednesday (12/23) evening, in a game that was just slightly more exciting than the heading indicates.

The Isles won on home ice for the first time in five tries. It was a grind-out win that featured good defensive work and good play from goaltender Dwayne Roloson. The 40 year old netminder won his 12th game of the season, and a 19 year old rookie (John Tavares) scored a pivotal goal to send the Islanders into the Christmas break on a positive note.

The Isles looked as if they were going to get on the board early in the first period, when Kyle Okposo (now goalless in a whopping 18 games) backhanded a puck on net with his side on a man advantage. It didn't go in, of course, and the Isles only mustered another 6 shots the entire period. Jon Sim made his presence felt, though, as he later took a penalty that might have saved a goal, then missed on a breakaway chance near the end of the frame.

Trent Hunter, who scored the opening goal of the previous game, did so again at 10:47 of the second period. As a New York power play expired, Hunter squeezed off a wrist shot that beat Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson high and close. Hunter's ledger now shows 7 goals on the season. The goal was unassisted.

Just 90 seconds later, John Tavares broke his mini-drought of five games without a point as he added a second score. Blake Comeau helped Tavares light the lamp this time, and defenseman Andy Sutton picked up a helper after some video review of the play.

Despite holding a 2-0 lead with 40 minutes in the books, doubt must have crept in to some fans' minds when Niklas Hagman scored just less than two minutes into the final period. Given their penchant for blowing 3rd period leads and lackadaisical efforts late in games, the concern was valid. But it proved to be unnecessary worry this time around.

Despite a spirited try (14 shots), the Leafs got nothing else past Roloson. Blake Comeau added a goal to his earlier assist when he was taken down on an empty net breakaway with 35 seconds left to play. For Comeau, it was his third goal of the season, but earned him the honorary hardhat for effort in a jubilant locker room afterward.

The Islanders will have two days off to spend with friends and family before they head back into action on Saturday (12/26) night. They will head to Madison Square Garden looking for their third win in four tries this season against the hated New York Rangers.

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