Anders Lee scored twice while Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves to lead the New York Islanders to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Nassau Coliseum. It was the third straight win for the Islanders with all of them coming by identical scores of 3-2.
The Islanders came out flying and truly dominated the first period. They scored twice in the first 4:03 and had several chances to add to that lead before the period was over.
Lee drew first blood just 1:11 into the game when Toronto’s Cody Franson turned the puck over to Lee in the Toronto zone and the young forward swooped in alone and poked the puck past Jonathan Bernier.
Casey Cizikas doubled the lead at the 4:03 mark off a nice feed from Colin McDonald and it was 2-0 Islanders before fans fighting the traffic on the Meadowbrook Parkway could even find their seats.
The Islanders outshot the Maple Leafs 18-8 in the first period. At times, the visitors looked almost indifferent at times as the Islanders skated around them and won nearly all the one-on-one battles for the puck.
The Maple Leafs regrouped early in the second period and quickly evened the score on goals by Richard Panik and Trevor Smith in the first 4:09 of the period.
Isles head coach Jack Capuano wisely called a timeout in an attempt to break up the momentum Toronto had built up.
It took a while for the Islanders to regain their composure, but they did and finally managed a shot on goal at the 7:39 mark of the second stanza.
Lee scored again at the 12:02 mark of the second period on a rebound of a shot by Josh Bailey. That gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead that they never relinquished.
Capuano was pleased with the play of Lee who has been a solid addition to the top line in the absence of the injured Kyle Okposo. “When you have the determination to get to the front of the net, you’re going to score a lot of goals,” Capuano added. “Obviously, he’s got a good hockey I.Q. Guys know where he’s going to be.”
In the third period, Toronto managed 14 shots on goal but did not have too many high quality scoring chances as the Isles’ defense held the explosive Leafs attack mostly in check.
Thomas Hickey made an exceptional play in the third period, batting the puck away after Halak came out of his net to chase a loose puck. The goalie ended up by the far boards while Hickey kept his cool and stationed himself by the near post to knock the puck out of harm’s way.
“Jaro [Halak] made a good read,” Hickey said. “The puck came up the wall and their guy was in and past myself and Lubo [Visnovsky]. We just all came to the house and sorted things out and gave him time to get back into the net.”
With the win, the Islanders bounced back and won three straight after enduring a three-game losing streak just prior.
“I think it shows a resiliency,” forward Matt Martin said. “I think it shows our maturity as a team. In previous years, we’d lose 20 in a row if we lost three. We need to keep finding ways to win and hopefully we can keep on rolling.”
With the win, the Islanders improve to 36-18-1 on the season. They return to action Saturday night when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7 pm.
Cal Clutterbuck returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games due to injury.
Attendance was 15,388.
This was the last trip to the Nassau Coliseum for the Maple Leafs.
Jaroslav Halak won his 30th game of the season.