Jason Blake scored the game-winning goal and added two assists against his former team to help the Toronto Maple leafs to a 4-2 victory over the Islanders, Monday night at the Air Canada Centre. Vesa Toskala made 26 saves, including 13 in the third period to earn his 10th win of the season.
"It's emotional playing against the Islanders," said Blake, who was a member of the Islanders from 2001–2007. "Going back there for the first time last year, you definitely shed a tear. I had some great memories on Long Island and have some great friends still there––guys like Rick DiPietro who I spent six years with. I just wish them the best of luck."
Bill Guerin scored his 11th goal of the season and Mike Sillinger tallied his first, as the Islanders dropped their third straight. Joey MacDonald made 33 saves for the Islanders. Monday was the first of four-straight games on a road trip that will continue tonight in Philadelphia against the Flyers.
The Maple Leafs took control early in the first period, out-shooting the Islanders 8-1. Nikolai Kulemin converted an Alexei Ponikarovsky pass in the slot for a 1-0 Toronto lead at 4:00 of the first period.
"We didn't establish any forecheck," said Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon. "As a result, we didn't get going in the early part of the game. We never got our legs underneath us and didn't skate with speed."
On the ensuing faceoff, Doug Weight and Blake Comeau teamed up to chip the puck into the offensive zone. Weight gathered the puck on the left wing board and had his centering pass tipped back to the point to Freddy Meyer, who had his shot deflected in front by Guerin past Vesa Toskala at 4:12.
The assist was Weight’s 994th-career point, leaving him just six points shy of the 1,000-point milestone.
Later in the period, Nate Thompson and Ryan Hollweg squared off after the Toronto forward slammed Mark Streit into the boards.
Toronto gained a 2-1 lead on the power play. Ian White scored with 7:04 remaining in the second period from the left side after Anton Stralman passed it across.
"It's one thing to play catch up if you play well, but we weren't playing well," said Gordon. "We took too long to get ourselves going. We didn't establish any momentum."
The Islanders were able to get going eventually, scoring on a power play of their own with 3:53 to go in the middle frame. Andy Hilbert worked hard along the boards to get the puck to Chris Campoli at the point. Campoli's shot was re-directed in front by Sillinger past Toskala for a 2-2 game.
Blake put Toronto back on top when he got around the defense and received a pass from Jeremy Williams. Blake scored on a sharp-angle shot with 1:40 remaining in the second period.
Blake and Williams teamed up again to put Toronto up 4-2. At 8:20 of the third period, Blake fed Williams, who had an open net to shoot at.
"The problem with the defensive zone coverage was that we allowed the opposition to come in too easily," said Gordon. “We're putting ourselves on our heels. It's easy to forecheck a team back on their heels."
The Islanders showed some life in the latter half of the third period, ultimately out-shooting the Maple Leafs 13-7 in the final frame, but they failed to score on Toskala.
"We decided to attack in the end of the third period and put them on their heels," said Gordon. "Unfortunately it was too late. For (Tuesday’s) game we have to identify the areas of the game that we have to be better in, which we did in the last 10 to 12 minutes."
Catch tonight's Islanders-Flyers game at 7 pm on 94.3 WMJC and WLNG 92.1 on Long Island and WKRB 90.3 in Brooklyn with Steve Mears and Chris King. Watch it on TV on VERSUS. Three Stars of the Game:
1. Jason Blake: Goal, 2 assists, 3 shots, +2 2. Jeremy Williams: Goal, Assist playing in his first game of the season 3. Jeff Finger: 20:59 TOI, 4 blocked shots Honorable Mention: Blake Comeau: His strong play in his first game landed him a spot on the top line with Guerin and Weight. In the first period, especially, generated some offensive chances.
Slapshots: Born in nearby Oshawa, Ontario, Josh Bailey had seven friends and family members in attendance. This was Bailey's first time playing at the Air Canada Centre...Mike Sillinger's faceoff prowess was in full effect on Monday night, going 9 of 12...Last year's line of Andy Hilbert, Mike Sillinger and Trent Hunter was reunited in the third period…Nate Thompson left the game due to the flu and did not return.
32 Brendan Witt - 44 Freddy Meyer
25 Andy Sutton - 2 Mark Streit
14 Chris Campoli - 17 Thomas Pock
93 Doug Weight - 13 Bill Guerin - 57 Blake Comeau
11 Andy Hilbert - 12 Josh Bailey - 7 Trent Hunter
20 Sean Bergenheim - 10 Richard Park - 16 Jon Sim
28 Tim Jackman - 18 Mike Sillinger - 45 Nate Thompson
35 Vesa Toskala
31 Curtis Joseph
15 Tomas Kaberle - 77 Pavel Kubina
7 Ian White - 59 Jaime Sifers
4 Jeff Finger - 36 Anton Stralman
23 Alexei Ponikarovsky - 14 Matt Stajan - 80 Nik Antropov
12 Lee Stempniak - 84 Mikhail Grabovski - 41 Nikolai Kulemin
18 Jeremy Williams - 19 Dominic Moore - 55 Jason Blake
56 Andre Deveaux - 39 John Mitchell - 44 Ryan Hollweg
1 - 0 TOR
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 TOR
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 TOR