ONE TO FORGET
By Kerry Gwydir and Chris Botta
Three power play goals in the first period and a 4-2 lead late in the first weren't enough for the Islanders, who had a disastrous night in Toronto and lost 9-6.
Things looked good for the Isles as they had a 4-2 lead late in the first. But the Maple Leafs scored two goals late in the first period to tie the game at intermission and added another four in the second period to take an 8-4 lead after two.
It certainly didn't look like it was going to be a long night for the Islanders. Things got off to a positive start when Eric Godard notched his first NHL goal just 2:11 into the game when he redirected Radek Martinek's shot from the top of the slot. Rob Collins earned his first NHL point on the play by controlling a loose puck behind the Toronto cage and finding the Islander defenseman in front for the initial opportunity.
But the Leafs answered eight minutes in when Alex Ponikarovsky buried a point-blank chance behind Rick DiPietro off a goal-mouth scramble started when Jason Allison gained position on Martinek behind the Islanders' cage. Allison, with a delayed penalty coming up to Martinek for holding the Leafs' forward, then whisked the puck out front to Wade Belak, who whacked at the puck prior to Ponikarovsky winding up with the goal.
Ken Klee, after coming out of the penalty box, converted his second of the season at the 10:37 mark off a 2-on-1. As the penalty to Klee had ended, Chris Campoli fanned on a chance in the slot, allowing the Leafs to rush into the neutral zone with just Martinek back. With Allison controlling the puck, he dished the puck to Klee at the left hashmark to beat DiPietro between the legs.
Penalty problems began to plague the Leafs soon after, with the Isles enjoying a pair of 5-on-3s. Mark Parrish converted the first opportunity with six minutes left on the first opportunity and a delayed penalty call when he banged home the rebound of an Alexei Yashin blast started by a pass from Jeff Hamilton.
Then with 5:45 to go, Alexei Yashin scored another 5-on-3 tally when the Islanders' captain jammed home the second-chance of a Miro Satan try that Ed Belfour initially stopped. On the doorstep again was Parrish, who took a shot from Bryan McCabe after the goal. That gave the Isles a third consecutive 5-on-3 for 1:17 with both Klee and McCabe in the sin bin. That, however, was short-lived as Yashin took down Carlo Colaiacovo in the neutral zone.
Then it was another one of the rookie Islanders getting on the scoreboard when Collins notched his first NHL goal with 2:32 to go in the opener. Mike York shot from a sharp angle found its way behind Belfour, who was then beaten to the puck by Collins, who tallied the power play goal.
Yet, the fervor and the momentum of the game changed dramatically just seconds later as Mariusz Czerkawski pulled the hosts within one which ignited a furious Toronto rally that lasted well into the second. On this goal, Darcy Tucker centered the puck from behind the Islander goal. Then, with 18.9 seconds left, Jeff O'Neill flipped a shot through a screen to beat DiPietro and tie the contest.
The Leafs continued their run on the scoreboard at the 7:34 mark of the second when Kyle Wellwood posted his sixth of the season with Hamilton in the penalty box. Wellwood got behind Janne Niinimaa off a pretty pass up ice from Tomas Kaberle and roofed a shot over DiPietro's trapper.
Toronto chased DiPietro with 10:38 to go when Matt Stajan scored a shorthanded tally and a delayed penalty coming up to the Isles. With Brent Sopel caught up ice, Mats Sundin found his teammate cutting behind Satan to snap a shot over DiPietro's glove. On the evening, DiPietro faced 16 shots before being pulled for Garth Snow.
The goals kept coming as the Isles failed to contain Toronto in front of the New York net when Stajan tallied his second of the game at the 11:52 mark. Wellwood and O'Neill got the assists. It didn't bet any better for the visitors four minutes later when Toronto converted another shorthanded chance, this time when Sundin wristed a shot from the left faceoff dot past Snow.
Mike York's goal at 2:42 of the third ended the Leafs' run of six straight goals and cut the lead to 8-5. Darcy Tarker (12:30 of the third) and Arron Asham (13:57) closed out the scoring.
The Islanders had 19 shots in the first period, 14 for the remainder of the game -- 4 in the second and 10 in the third...Rob Collins, Eric Godard and Jeremy Colliton were the only Islanders at plus-1 for the game. Ken Klee led Toronto at plus-4...
With the game practically out of reach in the third period, the highlight for fans watching at home might have been FSN analyst Joe Micheletti's comments about Team USA leaving Jeremy Roenick off the Olympic team. "Good for Team USA," said Micheletti. "Now, unless JR gets hired by one of the networks, he can stay home and root for Canada." Micheletti was referring to Roenick's comments that if he wasn't picked for Team USA that he would root for Team Canada.
(45) Arron Asham-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(18) Jeff Hamilton-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(28) Wyatt Smith-(37) Mark Parrish
(26) Rob Collins-(27) Jeremy Colliton-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(25) Brad Lukowich
(14) Chris Campoli-(24) Radek Martinek
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(16) Darcy Tucker-(13) Mats Sundin-(21) Mariusz Czerkawski
(18) Chad Kilger-(39) Clark Wilm-(3) Wade Belak
(23) Alex Ponikarovsky-(41) Jason Allison-(53) John Pohl
(14) Matt Stajan-(42) Kyle Wellwood-(92) Jeff O'Neill
(15) Tomas Kaberle-(24) Bryan McCabe
(25) Alex Khavanov-(22) Ken Klee
(8) Aki Berg-(45) Carlo Colaiacovo
(20) Ed Belfour
(32) Mikael Tellqvist