Trent Hunter and John Tavares scored goals a minute and a half apart in the second period, and that was all the Islanders needed as they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-1 at the Nassau Coliseum.
"We did the little things that we had to do," Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson said. "We just simplified it and went back to the basics. It's all cliches but realistically it's exactly what we did tonight."
While the first period did not see any scoring, Kyle Okposo had the best scoring chance of the game three and a half minutes into the opening period. With Matt Stajan in the penalty box, Okposo corralled a loose puck and fired a backhanded shot that got by Toronto goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, but deflected off the right post to keep the game scoreless.
Okposo has been stymied for a goal lately and is currently mired in a career-high 17 game scoreless streak.
Trent Hunter got the Islanders on the scoreboard first midway through the second period with his seventh goal of the season. Just as Jeff Finger escaped the penalty box, Hunter executed a nifty toe-drag around Mike Komisarek. After alluding the Toronto defenseman Hunter fired a wrist shot that just got by the glove hand of Gustavsson giving the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
"We haven't been scoring too many goals as of late and to get the first one in the game was good for us," John Tavares said. "It was a very defensive game, Rollie made some big saves in the end there in the third period."
Toronto looked to quickly erase the Islanders lead and thought they did, however Jason Blake batted the puck down and past Roloson with a high stick. The play was quickly waved off by referee Dean Morton.
Tavares quickly doubled the Islanders lead to 2-0 exactly a minute and a half later. Blake Comeau made it all happen by taking the puck into the Toronto zone and churned towards Gustavsson. As Comeau neared the Toronto net Gustavsson went down, only for Comeau to skate around the Maple Leafs goaltender and center the puck towards the crease.
Comeau's pass found a streaking Tavares, who deposited the puck in the empty net for his team-leading 16th goal of the season.
Prior to this, Tavares had gone the previous six games with a goal - the longest dry spell of his career.
"You want to contribute and you want to produce," Tavares said. "It's a long season and sometimes there are times when its just not going your way. It was a nice play Coms made to me there and its just nice to contribute."
Niklas Hagman got Toronto on the scoresheet just 1:56 into the third period to cut the Islanders lead in half. The play developed as Tomas Kaberle fired a shot from the blue line that got caught up in a maze of bodies. As Kaberles shot rolled towards the Islanders net, Hagman gathered the loose puck and was able to lift it over the right pad of Roloson to cut the Islanders lead to 2-1.
"As a team we played well, we stayed with the program and we did the little things we had to do to win a hockey game," Roloson said.
Comeau would be awarded an empty net goal with 34.9 seconds left when he was hooked by Francois Beauchemin to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead.
Roloson ended up playing strong for the rest of the period, stopping 13 shots in the final frame to preserve the lead and an Islanders victory.
The Islanders now head off into the holiday break with a big win, and hope to ride the momentum on Saturday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"To be able to have the next two days off and to finish with a win is good for the guys," said Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon.
Three Stars of the Game:
1. John Tavares, NYI - Game winning goal 2. Dwayne Roloson, NYI - 26 saves for the win 3. Niklas Hagman, TOR - Scored Torontos only goal.
Slapshots: Islanders outshot Toronto 27-22...Andy Sutton led all Islanders in ice time with 23:44...Islanders were 0-for-4 on the power play, while Toronto was unsuccessful on two opportunities...Islanders held the advantage in blocked shots, 29-15...Jeff Tambellini and Freddy Meyer (both healthy) were the Islanders scratches...This was the third meeting of the season and the first at the Nassau Coliseum between the Islanders and Leafs, with both teams splitting the previous two in Toronto...Islanders now hold an all-time record of 62-54-11 against Toronto.