Calvin de Haan’s first NHL goal held up as the game-winner, as the Islanders defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.
The rookie defenseman sent a slapper towards the net from outside the Leafs zone, but his shot deflected off Dion Phaneuf’s stick and beat Jonathan Bernier at 6:01 of the third period. The win was the Islanders fifth straight away from Nassau Coliseum and second in two nights.
“It was a greasy one,” de Haan joked. “Obviously it’s pretty cool, especially to score in my home province. They all count, it’s a great feeling.”
Tied at two entering the third period, the Islanders pulled ahead with two goals, Frans Nielsen’s 16th and de Haan’s winner, in the first six minutes. John Tavares had three assists in the game, including two in the third period to break the 2-2 deadlock. Michael Grabner (one goal, one assist) and Travis Hamonic (two assists) each had two points, while Kyle Okposo and Cal Clutterbuck rounded out the scoring for the Islanders.
“It was a good win,” Tavares said. “Not our prettiest game, or our best game, but for the circumstances of getting here late last night and playing a team that was fresh, we did a good job of staying with it and taking advantage of our opportunities.”
The Leafs opened the scoring as Tyler Bozak tipped Paul Ranger’s point shot past Kevin Poulin 5:05 into the game. The Islanders played an otherwise solid first period, limiting Toronto’s chances and eventually responded in the final minute of the period. New-father Kyle Okposo beat Jonathan Bernier with a high wrist shot, notching the score at one at 19:16.
The Islanders took their first lead early in the second period, as Grabner took advantage of a Bernier gaffe. Bernier was caught standing over the puck in the no-play zone and instead of taking a penalty, decided to rush back to his crease. His speed was no match for Grabner’s, as the Austrian Olympian curled around the cage and pocketed the puck for the 2-1 lead. Mason Raymond answered for the Leafs five minutes later, tying the score 2-2.
After taking the first four penalties of the game Tuesday, the Islanders were finally able skate with the man advantage in the third period. The red-hot power play scored for a third straight game, as a blocked point shot found Nielsen in the slot and the Dane quickly put it in the back of the net.
“I thought we played really well in the third period,” goaltender Kevin Poulin said. “We gave them nothing. We didn’t have turnovers, even in the neutral zone we made the safe play.”
Joffrey Lupul cut the Islanders lead to one late in the game, but Clutterbuck potted the insurance marker into the empty net with 8.3 seconds on the clock.
Poulin finished the game with 23 saves, while his counterpart, Bernier, stopped 20-of-24 in the loss.
The Islanders return home to Long Island for one day before resuming their six-game road trip Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche.
NOTES: Vanek extended his career-best point streak to 10 games (5-10-15) with an assist Tuesday… Okposo had two points in his return to the Islanders lineup after sitting out one game for the birth of his first daughter… Vanek, Grabner, Tavares and Lubomir Visnovsky all were named to their respective Olympic teams Tuesday.