Game in 10: Game #21: Leafs 5 vs. Islanders 2

1549
Photo: Getty Images

Jake Gardiner dazzled in his best game of the season, David Clarkson FINALLY scored his first goal of the season and Jonathan Bernier was good when he needed to be as the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped the New York Islanders 5 – 2. Trevor Smith, Phil Kessel (2), Mason Raymond and Clarkson all scored for the Leafs, who won their second straight game.  Smith (1G, 2A) and Joffrey Lupul (3A) tallied 3 points apiece as the Leafs cruised to a pretty easy victory. Bernier made 35 saves for his eighth victory of the season.  Kevin Poulin struggled for the Islanders, making just 19 saves.  Casey Cizikas and Frans Nielsen responded for the Isles.

1.  Despite their middling record, the Islanders came into Toronto having won their last three matches at the ACC.  They also have one of the league’s top forward trios with Jonathan Tavares, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo combining for 66 points through the first 21 games.  But that didn’t matter all that much because Joffrey Lupul carried the puck cleanly through the neutral zone, sifted through the defense, cut towards the net and found a wide open Trevor Smith out front who scored the game’s opening goal just 22 seconds into the game.  Lupul assisted on the goal, Smith’s fourth of the year, breaking a mini slump (2 pts in last 9gp prior to tonight).  Hockey’s Handsomest Line™ (Lupul, Smith and Clarkson) was creating chances every shift they took tonight, combining for 7 points.

2. Jake Gardiner was electric in the first period.  He turned a defensive zone fourth line shift into two offensive chances.  Firstly by adroitly clearing the zone and getting the puck to Frazer McLaren and into the Islanders zone.  Later in the same shift, Cody Franson pounced on a turnover and left a soft touch pass for Gardiner.  With the Isles forwards switching their vectors onto him, Gardiner floated a surprise pass to Franson.  Despite somewhat bobbling the back and forth, Franson had enough time and space to recover and get a crisp, low shot off.  Later in the frame he also played a 3 on 1 textbook perfectly, neutering what should have been a good chance by the Isles.  He saw 9 minutes through the first 20, 22 through the game, and had a shift in the second period where he was just a one-man breakout machine (fun fact, that was my nickname in high school).

3. For Gardiner’s heroics, his erstwhile (that means former, before you get on me in the comments) defense partner Paul Ranger had another rough game, especially at the blue lines.  The Islanders were allowed to keep the puck in the Leafs end for nearly a minute due to Ranger’s inability to get it to the line AND out.  With the Leafs applying pressure and the Kessel line on, Ranger turned the puck over at the blue line on a seemingly innocuous play, allowing for a chance the other way.  That’s usually the recipe for a good old fashioned benching, so of course he went on to play 17 and a half minutes tonight, even in spite of a foolish roughing penalty towards the middle of the third.

4. Though the Leafs were outshot 11-7 through 20, they appeared to hold the balance of play through the first.  The second period started off less favourably for the Buds, getting outshot 4-0 and out played through the first five minutes of play.  It wasn’t until a borderline hit by Nikolai Kulemin on Tavares that the Leafs woke up.  Though not instantaneous, the ice began to tilt in Toronto’s favour.  The Leafs top two lines took to work, hemming the Isles in their zone for sustained periods of time, leading to the inevitable….

5.  After James van Riemsdyk got hacked down in the Isles’ zone, the Maple Leafs took the game’s first power play mid-way through the second period.  With a PP that’s been scoring nearly a goal per game and the Leafs surging, Phil Kessel took a pass from Lupul, button hooked, took a couple steps down to the circle, and took just a beautiful wrister that sailed passed Poulin’s blocker. The goal was Kessel’s 11th of the season and just his second in 8 games; with Lupul and Phaneuf picking up the assists.  He’d later pick up his second goal of the game and 12th of the season off a 2-1 rush with van Riemsdyk to close out the third.

6. This is why you don’t make fun of people’s names.

Casey Cizikas, who isn’t a tasty thing that goes with donair, scores an absolute beauty on a breakaway with 11 seconds left in the 2nd, outracing Jake Gardiner (Not a typo) and slipping the puck through Bernier’s wickets.  The Leafs held a 2-1 lead through 40, and I’m still sorry about the whole thing guys.

7. The third period started in a similar fashion to the second, with the Islanders controlling play.  Shortly after Eric Boulton and Colton Orr chucked knuckles, Carl Gunnarsson blocks a shot and gets the puck out to Mason Raymond.  The puck finds its way to a driving McClement in the center lane, who puts a shot on Poulin.  Raymond was Johnny on the spot and buried the rebound to make it 3-1. The goal was Raymond’s 8th of the season, with McClement getting the lone assist.  It was all over but the screaming at that point.

8. I wanted to use this space to discuss just how great a game Nikolai Kulemin had, but David Clarkson’s goal – and play tonight – warrant mention.  The second line was great tonight.  Their ability to wear the Isles down in the offensive zone was noticeable, and all three were rewarded handsomely on the score sheet.  But for Clarkson, who is suddenly hot with three points in his last three games, his third period tally was the monkey off the back goal he so desperately needed.  Much like Phil Kessel last season, it took Clarkson 21 11 games to pot his first, but it sure was a beauty.  He played just a shade under 19 minutes tonight, and was hell for the Islanders to play throughout.

The line of Raymond, McClement and Kulemin was also effective while lining up against the Tavares unit for a number of shifts.

9. Special Teams Report: The league’s 11th ranked PK entering tonight (83.5% success rate) went 2/2 and kept the Leafs ahead the Islanders in the waning minutes of the second and mid-way through the third.  Carl Gunnarsson, whom I maligned earlier this afternoon, made a huge play to block a couple shots with Bernier scrambling to get back in position.  Gunnarsson’s selfless maneuver kept the Leafs two-goal lead intact with just over 10 left to play in the game.

The Leafs power play, ranked 3rd in the league with a 23.1 success rate, went 1/2 and helped put the Leafs out front by a two-goal margin.  They never had to look back after that.  For the record, the Zebras looked kindly on the Maple Leafs all game.  In the first, Frazer McLaren attempted to instigate a fight with an unwilling Matt Martin.  That probably should have been a penalty.  Kulemin’s thunderous hit on Tavares, while the most hit Kuli’s had since May, was certainly on the edge of legality.  The refs, thankfully, kept the whistles away, allowing for a fun, fast paced, even game.

Kessel's 2nd of the night, the 5-2 goal.
Kessel’s 2nd of the night, the 5-2 goal.

10. The Islanders weren’t exactly expected to be a fearsome competitor facing the East’s third best team.  Instead they served as slump busters, getting both Lupul and Kessel back on the score sheet after short droughts.  It wasn’t always pretty for the full 60, but at no point did the game truly seem in doubt for the Leafs.  There’s still plenty of room to grow, but this was a better, more dominant win than most for the Buds.

The Leafs will be in action on Thursday as they host the Nashville Predators.  It’ll be the second and final regular season matchup between the two clubs; Toronto won their previous tilt 4-0.

Leafs/Isles Shot Location Data
Leafs/Isles Shot Location Data
SCORING SUMMARY   
1ST PERIOD
0:22:00TORTrevor Smith (3) Snap shot - ASST: Joffrey Lupul (5)1 - 0 TOR
2ND PERIOD
11:19:00TOR PPG - Phil Kessel (11) Wrist shot - ASST: Joffrey Lupul (6), Dion Phaneuf (7)2 - 0 TOR
19:48:00NYICasey Cizikas (3) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE2 - 1 TOR
3RD PERIOD
3:39:00TORMason Raymond (8) Backhand shot - ASST: Jay McClement (2)3 - 1 TOR
12:52:00TORDavid Clarkson (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Trevor Smith (2), Joffrey Lupul (7)4 - 1 TOR
15:14:00NYIFrans Nielsen (10) Wrist shot - ASST: Josh Bailey (6)4 - 2 TOR
17:17:00TORPhil Kessel (12) Wrist shot - ASST: James van Riemsdyk (7), Trevor Smith (3)5 - 2 TOR

Islanders at Leafs - November 19

Leafs 5 vs. Isles 2.
NO.PLAYERPOSGAP+/-PIMSHITSBKSGVATKAFO%PPTOISHTOITOI
3D. PhaneufD0112004210-2:52:002:47:0022:16:00
4C. FransonD000-2024120-2:18:001:13:0020:56:00
11J. McClementC011101000159%0:00:002:47:0020:18:00
12M. RaymondL1011030000-0:32:000:00:0015:57:00
15P. RangerD0001202231-0:00:001:20:0017:22:00
19J. LupulR0330202010100%2:36:000:00:0019:28:00
21J. van RiemsdykL011102002125%2:36:001:13:0016:54:00
22J. SmithsonC000000320075%0:00:001:35:008:43:00
23T. SmithC123102121157%0:32:000:00:0016:43:00
24P. HollandC000001310014%0:00:000:00:0012:43:00
28C. OrrR0000504000-0:00:000:00:006:29:00
36C. GunnarssonD0003004131-0:00:000:52:0019:31:00
38F. McLarenL0000501000-0:00:000:00:006:39:00
41N. KuleminL00010332110%0:00:002:25:0017:26:00
44M. RiellyD0001012421-0:16:000:00:0017:45:00
51J. GardinerD000-1030110-0:50:001:48:0022:20:00
71D. ClarksonR10100251100%0:32:000:00:0018:49:00
81P. KesselC2021041000-2:36:000:00:0015:41:00
Goalie
NO.PLAYERSAVESSV%PIMTOI
45J. Bernier35 - 370.946060:00:00
  • DARF24

    Got give credit to Kulimen-Mcclement-Raymond, they did a good job shutting down JT’s line

  • darthNihilus

    fucken eh’! eh? Beautious game tonight boys. (with a few scary moments)

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    Refresh – should have all the GIT data there

  • Coldincowtown

    Down three centre’s and we go 2-1. Not too shabby regardless of competition. Nice to see our boys gut it out despite some concerns that we were going to be toast without Kadri.

  • Loric76

    https://twitter.com/mirtlehttps://twitter.com/mirtle/status/402999574689615873
    Kessel was asked about his wrist being banged up but declined to talk about it.

  • B_Leaf

    Well after a few underwhelming performances, I thought tonight’s game was decent. But more importantly it offered hope that our bottom six type forwards are showing signs that they can do their jobs. McClement has nothing to prove, he played well, but he had some good company with Kulemin and Clarkson having their best games this year. Great to see those two finding their game…hitting, grinding on the cycle, and creating a few chances. It was Clarkson’s best game even before he scored. Smithson is only playing limited minutes but he seems to be solid in that role.
    Let’s face it, when we get down to the last 20 games and into the playoffs, the reffing, and games will change. We will need to be able to play the physical game. Guys like Kulemin and Clarkson will play a big role. We also have Lupul, Kadri and JVR in our top six who can score in physical type contests. Fact is though that this team needs another physical forward with 2-way ability.

  • gilmourhalloffame

    Thanks for GIT…I would add Islanders goalie was weak tonight which helped win the game for us.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    we can take Nashville on thursday…..it’ll be nice to get some of the other boys back too….getting healthier

  • rustynail

    How was Kuli’s hit borderline?

  • Loric76

    https://twitter.com/mirtlehttps://twitter.com/mirtle/status/403001055018893313
    Phil Kessel: “Our goaltending’s been great this year. When your goalies are playing like that, you’re going to win a lot of games.”

  • Loric76

    gilmourhalloffame nah we were just lucky :)

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    crazy thing about kessel, he scores some amazing goals and he doesn’t celly very often. He’s very ho hum when he scores goals……almost like….ya, I been there, I’ve done it

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/kevin_mcgranhttps://twitter.com/kevin_mcgran/status/403001755253735424
    https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash are 8-2-0 at ACC: Says Carlyle: When teams come into this building it’s no more of this two points and kiss your relatives+go home.

  • B_Leaf

    Burtonboy 
    Gotta love Carlyle

  • dlb eh

    that 3 on 1, if it’s the same one i’m remembering and not a different one you’re talking about…the Isles two forwards not carrying the puck peeled off as if their x-wives appeared behind the puck carrier in the corner.  that was perhaps the single worst 3 on 1 i’ve ever seen players over the age of 9 attempt.

  • http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/ DylanJ

    Dangle_My_Berries He’s awesome.

  • Loric76

    It’s Smithson you dumbasshttps://twitter.com/DamoSpinhttps://twitter.com/DamoSpin/status/403002096414253056
    Jerrod Smith 13-3 in faceoff dot tonight.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Burtonboy Awesome answer.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Loric76 Dominant

  • LeafsForLife

    Great job Micheal. Thanks for this!
    Just wondering how Kulemins hit on JT was borderline? It looked like a good hit to me. Even Millen said it was a good hit. lol.

  • dlb eh

    rustynail 
    no way.  he skated right up beside him and showed just how powerful a man he is.  no foot sweep or anything at all dirty about that play.  he was simply superior.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    DylanJ Dangle_My_Berries ya, guy is something special

  • http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/ DylanJ

    LeafsForLife If anyone was to blame, it was the referee. Even Tavares would agree.

  • Loric76

    https://twitter.com/MapleLeafshttps://twitter.com/MapleLeafs/status/403002703694946304
    https://twitter.com/search?q=%23TMLtalk&src=hash image: No. 1 for No. 71 https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash http://t.co/2IxaukGiAt

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Loric76 love these!

  • B_Leaf

    Dangle_My_Berries Loric76 
    Smithson, McClement, Clarkson, and Kulemin all showed signs tonight that they are the foundation of a solid bottom six…not saying a couple of those guys couldn’t move up in the line-up, but they bring that quality bottom six type style we will need when games get tighter. In my opinion we still need more of that.

  • rustynail

    Dangle_My_Berries but “you can;t build a team around Kessel” :) :)

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    B_Leaf Dangle_My_Berries Loric76 agreed

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    rustynail Dangle_My_Berries lots of people eating their words now…

  • Anthony Petrielli

    Dangle_My_Berries Well because has been there. All the time he’s there!

  • Xxxxxnew

    They found a stray monkey running around the ACC after the game tonight. And David Clarkson’s back is feeling a lot better.

  • rustynail

    Loric76 https://twitter.com/DamoSpinhttps://twitter.com/DamoSpin/status/403002096414253056
    Jerrod Smith 13-3 in faceoff dot tonight.https://twitter.com/#https://twitter.com/#https://twitter.com/# Morehttps://twitter.com/DamoSpin/status/403002096414253056https://twitter.com/Loric76https://twitter.com/Loric76/status/403002701933330432
    https://twitter.com/DamoSpin you mean Smithson

  • Anthony Petrielli

    B_Leaf Dangle_My_Berries Loric76 Swap Clarkson with Raymond though.

  • Coldincowtown

    Geeze what are we going to do with all this centre depth when we get are top three back, trade !! :)

  • sniperstar

    rustynail If anything it may have been b/c Tavares almost went head first into the boards. Other than that I can’t think of any way it’d be borderline.

  • B_Leaf

    Anthony Petrielli B_Leaf Dangle_My_Berries Loric76 
    What do you mean?

  • Xxxxxnew

    Phil Kessel has scored three times as many goals as Malkin and Giroux combined.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Anthony Petrielli Dangle_My_Berries its true. but Ovi scores a goal and he acts like its his first and last…..Kessel scores, and he’s the exact opposite…..one day I just want kessel to bust out with the one hand ice drag into the fist pump lol…..I actually prefer kessel lack of emotion cause he knows with every goal, he’s shutting everyone up

  • Knights2Leafs

    Anthony Petrielli
    Agree with this. Clarkson is playing like a mad man and he can single handedly hang on to the puck.  Just what our top 6 needs.

  • dlb eh

    Michael, just wondering why you said Ranger had a rough game but didn’t say the same about Gunnarsson.
    this sounds like the old Phaneuf logic, applies to both these guys tonight:
    – guy breaks up countless plays, makes a handful of miscues, makes far more solid plays
    – some bad plays acredited to him should belong to the forward not recieving pass with an appropriate effort
    It’s just too convenient picking favourites before the game even starts.

  • leafmealone

    Loric76 Or Jerrod SMITHSON, and Trevor SMITH. But you know, it’s not like this guy’s paid to report on the team or anything. lol

  • sniperstar

    Loric76 Looks fine to me.

  • rustynail

    Coldincowtown enjoy it

  • LeafsForLife

    Bernier and Riemer ranked 8th and 9th on Player Rankings on TSN. But they despise Kessel obviously as they rank him 38th. WTF!

  • Alec Brownscombe

    dlb eh Ranger wasn’t good tonight. It’s OK, it happens.

  • sniperstar

    Dangle_My_Berries Anthony Petrielli He can save it for his 40th 😉

  • Anthony Petrielli

    Dangle_My_Berries Anthony Petrielli I respect guys more that score with class. Kessel shows the emotion when appropriate (like playoffs).

  • Coldincowtown

    LeafsForLife reading MSM will make you go blind, stay here with your objective friends!

  • Xxxxxnew

    B_Leaf Dangle_My_Berries Loric76 I can see Clarkson riding shotgun on the second  line depending on the opponent.

  • GeorgeCastanza

    LeafsForLife   tsn network is a joke! right behind “hockey night in canada”.