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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.”




J. Tavares 78 33 37 6 70
K. Okposo 79 22 42 -4 64
F. Nielsen 81 20 32 1 52
B. Nelson 81 26 14 -3 40
N. Leddy 81 5 35 -9 40
A. Lee 80 15 21 -2 36
J. Bailey 81 12 20 -7 32
C. Cizikas 80 8 21 4 29
R. Strome 71 8 20 -9 28
M. Grabovski 58 9 16 3 25
T. Greiss 23 11 4 .925 2.36
J. Halak 18 13 4 .919 2.30
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