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Late rally cut short

Forward John Tavares made a big impact all night, but was sent to box for questionable call at most inopportune time as Isles lost to Leafs 5-3

Friday, 12.23.2011 / 10:57 PM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
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Late rally cut short
The Islanders dropped their second straight, falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 at Nassau Coliseum on Friday night. But it wasn’t without a fight.

After falling behind 3-0 in the opening 11:15 of action, the home team fought back with inspired play and goals from Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and John Tavares. Tavares’ goal put the Isles within one with 9:30 remaining in regulation, inspiring the Islanders to amp up their pressure in the offensive zone even more.

James Reimer makes a save off of John Tavares at Nassau Coliseum on December 23, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
But with 3:01 remaining in regulation, with the Isles down by just one goal, Tavares was whistled for a diving penalty during in the Isles most dire stretch. The building rocked with dismay, as fans voiced their disapproval for the call. An empty-net goal sealed the Isles fate.

Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano waited until the post game press conference to voice his opinions.

“I normally don’t say too much about the officiating, but Johnny is not the type of player that’s going to dive at all,” Capuano said. “He plays with his heart on his sleeve. He works extremely hard. He takes a lot of pride and after watching the replay, it’s clearly a high stick.”

Replays showed Tavares going down after being cross-checked in front of the Isles bench by Joffrey Lupul. Both players were sent to the box for two minutes.

That point in the game was critical for the Isles, who were looking to close out a 3-in-4 heading into the holiday break.

“It takes your best player off the ice, that’s what it does,” Capuano said, showing his displeasure. “We had an opportunity late. We had that timeout. We knew what we were going to do 6-on-5, we were trying to get a whistle to use our timeout, but again, especially 4-on-4, to have 91 (Tavares) in the box is tough.”

Luke Schenn pokes the puck away from John Tavares at Nassau Coliseum on December 23, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Tavares didn’t like the call.

“I have a lot of respect for the officials in the league,” Tavares said. “They have a hell of a tough job. It’s a tough game to officiate. A lot of things are bang-bang out there, but I thought it was pretty blatant. I really don’t think the officials are taking sides for what cities, what franchises they are; I just didn’t like the call.”

Assistant Captain Kyle Okposo shared in Tavares’ disbelief.

“He got cross-checked in the head and went down to the ice,” Okposo said. “It’s not a dive. I don’t agree with it. I know it’s tough for the refs sometimes and they have to make judgment calls, but that was not a dive.”

Lupul would score the empty net goal, providing the final margin.

“We can’t have poor starts like that,” Okposo said. “Getting down 3-0 early there, it doesn’t help. We showed some heart battling back, but we need points right now.”

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
7 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
8 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
9 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
K. Okposo 49 15 26 -7 41
J. Tavares 48 19 21 -4 40
F. Nielsen 51 15 18 0 33
B. Nelson 51 20 11 1 31
M. Grabovski 51 9 15 2 24
J. Bailey 50 9 15 5 24
N. Leddy 51 3 20 -8 23
A. Lee 51 7 15 1 22
R. Strome 40 5 14 -6 19
C. Clutterbuck 50 11 4 6 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 12 11 4 .917 2.28
T. Greiss 14 6 2 .929 2.26
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