The New York Islanders found another way to win Monday night, defeating the Maple Leafs in overtime 2-1 on a goal by John Tavares. While the winning continued, so did a frustrating pattern of having key players becoming unavailable due to injury. Josh Bailey left the game in the second period due to a hip flexor. His future availability is uncertain.
The Isles got superb goaltending from Dwayne Roloson who made 29 saves to earn the win. The 41-year-old veteran made several key stops from point blank range to keep the previously unbeaten Maple Leafs off the board until late in the third period.
After a scoreless and tentative first period, the Islanders took a 1-0 lead on a pretty goal by Matt Moulson. He took a pass from Tavares and backhanded the puck past Leafs starter J.S. Giguere at the 2:17 mark of the second period.
Roloson and the Islanders made every effort to hold on to that 1-0 lead. While the Islanders had a few scoring chances, the Leafs had plenty of quality scoring chances but Roloson made every stop including some particularly strong saves on Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski.
The Leafs were denied two goals after reviews. The first occurred last in the second period when Kris Versteeg put the puck in the net but it was called back when it was ruled he hit the puck in with a high stick. That play was not reviewable by instant replay.
In the third period, Colby Armstrong tried to bank the puck in off Roloson from behind the net. The Leafs celebrated, but replays showed the puck skid across the goal line but never crossed it before Tavares managed to clear the zone.
Kessel finally tied the game on the power play when he got the puck off a deflection and wristed it past Roloson with just 2:05 left in regulation time.
In overtime, the Isles took advantage of goalie interference call against Brett Lebda to set up the game winner by Tavares. He beat Giguere high on the glove side with a hard and accurate shot that went in just inside the near post.
“The play was actually supposed to get Wisniewski the point shot but I screwed up the pass,” Tavares admitted. “He gave me the one-timer and I just tried to put my head down and tried to shoot it as hard as I could and bury it on that. It’s something I worked on over the summer.”
The former first overall pick was excited about netting the game winner so close to home. “It was just a great ending and it was definitely nice to contribute to a big win and just great to be back after missing a few games.”
Isles’ Coach Scott Gordon has noticed a difference with his team this season. “The approach the guys have had has been tremendous, right since day one of training camp and we have some guys that have come into our organization that really have set a standard in our locker room to go along with the enthusiasm of the youth that we have on our team,” Gordon explained.
The win got the Isles off to a strong start on a four-game road swing that continues Thursday night in Tampa Bay. It also kept them in first place in the Atlantic Division with a 3-1-2 record.
Trent Hunter missed his second straight game with a foot injury. Hunter did not make the trip to Toronto with the club.