The New York Islanders let an early lead slip away, falling 5-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Nick Leddy and John Tavares put the Islanders ahead 2-1 lead in the first period, but a four-goal second period from the visitors proved to be the difference. Phil Kessel led the way for the Maple Leafs with three points (2G, 1A).
“We were easy to play against and soft on pucks,” Tavares said of the Islanders’ second period. “We stopped moving our feet and were an easy team to play against. They have some guys that can score some goals and they executed better than we did.”
Leddy opened the scoring with his third of the season, skating into an open slot before beating Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier underneath the glove. Ryan Strome set up the play, drawing two Leafs to the half wall, before spinning and feeding the pinching defenseman.
James van Riemsdyk tied the score at one, as the Leafs took advantage of an unfavorable Coliseum carom. Thomas Hickey was chasing a clear around the boards, before the puck kicked off the dasher and onto the stick of Phil Kessel, who dished to an open van Riemsdyk at the bottom of the right circle.
The Islanders used the lively Coliseum boards to their advantage to retake the lead. Frans Nielsen’s missed shot drove out to Tavares, who one-touched the puck past Bernier. Tavares’ third – a power-play goal – was his 10th point of the season.
But things unraveled in the second period, as four goals in under nine minutes turned a 2-1 advantage into a 5-2 Leaf margin. The goals came in quick succession, as Kessel and Roman Polak scored 2:07 apart around the midway mark, while Kessel and David Clarkson scored 1:32 apart near the end of the period.
Kessel utilized his footspeed and quick release twice, scoring both his goals on the rush in the right circle. Polak and Clarkson both beat Halak with wrist shots, Polak from the slot, while Clarkson beat Halak through a screen.
“Not good enough,” Travis Hamonic said. “We have a new standard in this dressing room. We’ve had our fair share of that in the past and we have to make it our mission not to let it happen again.”
The Islanders made a push in the third period, outshooting and outchancing the Leafs, but were unable to solve Bernier. Casey Cizikas couldn’t get good wood on a shot from the top of the crease, which resulted in a goalline, paddle save from Bernier. Cal Clutterbuck had the Islanders second-best chance of the period, but shot wide on a two-on-one rush with Nielsen.
“We felt pretty good going in [to the third] if we could get one,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “Right off the bat he makes a save against Casey on an empty net there. We just couldn't get the first one in the third to get us going.”
The Islanders drop to 4-2-0, but Tavares said there was no panic in the locker room.
“It’s a long season,” Tavares said. “After four games we weren’t winning the Stanley Cup and after six games we’re not winning it. We’re disappointed with our effort and our overall game, but tomorrow is a day to get better and we have a couple of big games this week, so we have to be ready and we have to bounce back.”
The Islanders travel to Boston tomorrow for a Thursday night date with the Bruins. Puck drop from TD Garden is at 7 p.m.