Post Game Recap: For Kris’ Sake

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    Jonathan Tavares powerplay goal with a 1:34 left in overtime lifted the competitive New York Islanders over the Toronto Maple Leafs 2 – 1. 11 months ago.  Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson only had to make half as many saves as the November 23rd 2009 thievery, but the result was still the same as an outworked, out-chanced and outplayed New York Islanders club still managed to steal a win

    Now, to strut my prognostication skills, I made a gentleman’s agreement with a client at the bank today.  He predicted that the Leafs would win in regulation by 1 goal.  Feeling that the Leafs were due for a stinker, I bet that the Islanders would win by at least 2 goals.  Well, sorry, Grant, but apparently we neither of us are gentlemen.

    The first period saw a Leafs team play with the entire swagger that comes with being the best in the league.  In the first 14 minutes, the Leafs absolutely dominated the puck. The leafs set a physical tone with Tyler Bozak running into Josh Bailey and injuring the former Windsor Spitfire. Also, a deft leafs defense and speedy counter attack stifled the Isles offence: for a span of ten minutes they were held shotless.

    Despite taking control of the game, the Leafs couldn’t solve the wizened Roloson.  Kessel and Versteeg were robbed on separate chances early in the first.  Versteeg in particular was spectacular tonight.  Though held pointless, Versteeg performed admirably in a losing cause.  On the other side of the spectrum, Tomas Kaberle was having an off night.  His puck handling skills tonight appeared to be anything but sublime.

    Roloson continued to be the story of the first as he stopped two quick chances (a point blast from Schenn and a quick snap shot from Sjostrom) to keep the overmatched Isles in it.

    The Leafs, apparently confusing the TV time out with 6:01 left in the first with the end of the period, disappeared.  It was at this time that I began noticing that the Isles forecheck was really hindering Toronto’s ability to pass the puck in their own zone.

    12 seconds into the 2nd period, Francois Beauchemin took the game’s first penalty.  The Leafs 93.3% PK took the ice and foot soldiers Mike Brown and Mike Zigomanis performed commendably to keep the score tied.  An unfortunate miscue by Colby Armstrong led to a Frans Nielsen inception, who dished to Tavares who floated a puck over to Matt Moulson.  Moulson – who showed that he’s played a game or two of NHL 11 – pulled off a pretty backhand deke that beat Giggy glove side to make it 1 – 0.

    After that, the game turned into an episode of “Everybody hates Kris” as No. 32 was robbed not once, not twice, but thrice.  The first two were when Versteeg found himself in alone and was robbed by the pad of Rolly and then the crossbar.

    After two great scoring chances by Mikhail Grabovski, Kris Versteeg was robbed for a final time, this time by referee Don Van Massenhoven.  After a Dion Phaneuf bomb from the point deflected off Roloson, it glanced off Versteeg’s raised stick.  Though my ears heard no whistle, apparently play was blown dead milliseconds before Versteeg fired the puck home.

    Shortly thereafter the Leafs went on the powerplay, as the refs – in an attempt at appeasement more transparent than the militarization of the Rheinland in 1936 – called John Tavares on a dubious interference penalty.  The powerplay, as has been seen often this season, was another impotent display of peripheral passing plays that read “Kessel, to Kaberle…to Phaneuf back to Kessel back to Kaberle who holds it before passing it back to Phaneuf.”  From the PP to the end of the period, the Leafs looked out of sync

    The second period ended with a frustrated Versteeg taking a slashing call after being pummeled into the boards by Radek Martinek.  The third began in much the same way as the second, with Zigomanis and Brown excelling on the PK.

    Looking to pick up the team by the bootstraps, Luke Schenn committed an act of pure elder abuse, running Doug Weight over in the corner.  It seemed to spark the club, as not long after Phaneuf led a rush down the ice that saw Colby Armstrong appear to dig the puck out from under Roloson and into the net.  However, the play was put under review and the goal waved off.  The puck, admittedly, didn’t look like it went in, but for the 18000 fans at the game and countless others watching at home, the call felt like just another injustice against the hard luck buds.

    The bad luck finally abated with 2:05 to play as James Wisniewski’s penalty led to Phil Kessel’s tying goal.  Dion Phaneuf fired a shot that deflected off Zenon Konopka’s shinpad right to an open Kessel.

    Overtime was necessary, due to beautiful defensive plays by Clarke MacArthur at one end and Radek Martinek at the other in the dying seconds of the third.

    In OT, the Leafs again controlled the pace of the game…to no avail.  To add insult to injury, Kris Versteeg found himself in alone on a breakaway and just as he was about to unleash a wrister, the puck bounced on him and he missed the net by a good 4 feet.  Later, on a 2 on 1 rush, Brett Lebda (making his first appearance for the Leafs) took a penalty for goaltender interference.  Who’s a goose? You’re a goose, Brett.

    The ensuing powerplay led to Tavares’ winner, a laser of a shot that beat Giguere over the shoulder.  The Isles improve to 3 – 1 – 2 on the season, while Leafs finally lost a game, falling to 4 – 0 – 1 on the season.  The next Leafs game will be Thursday against the bed-ridden New York Rangers.