The Toronto Maple Leafs dug themselves into a 3-1 hole, but they battled back to get a point on Long Island on Monday night.

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The Bad

I want to start with the bad because it made the biggest difference in the game. After starting out well and going up 1-0 at the 5:50 mark of the first period, the remainder of the opening period and the first minute of the second period were all New York.  

I feel the need to rant here. I don’t know what Sheldon Keefe’s thinking is but he seems to feel the need to throw the fourth line out on the ice right after the Maple Leafs score a goal. He did that this time. To make matters worse, he had them on the ice with the Maple Leafs’ third defensive pair. 

To counter, the Islanders threw out the Brock Nelson-led second line. The Nelson line spent the entire shift in the Toronto zone and had five shot attempts. These included a great down-low chance for Nelson that Ilya Samsonov stopped.  

The Islanders followed that up with a shift by their first line. After winning the draw in the Toronto zone, New York worked the puck around and had three more shot attempts before the Maple Leafs were able to get control of the puck.

Momentum plays such a big role in this game and the shift following a goal can either add to the scoring team keeping the momentum or the other team regaining it. I fail to see why Keefe insists on putting his worst five players on the ice right after a goal. 

Rant over. 

The Islanders Carried the Momentum In the First and Last Part of the Second Period

The Islanders carried the momentum from those two shifts throughout the remainder of the first period and into the start of the second. They outshot the Maple Leafs 9-3 in that time and scored three goals to take a 3-1 lead. After Kyle Palmieri scored the third New York goal, Keefe again came back with the fourth line. This time the Islanders countered with their third line, and the fourth line did have a decent shift despite a giveaway by Ryan Reaves. 

However, the damage was done. The Maple Leafs spent the rest of the game digging themselves out of the hole they had built.   

How bad was that stretch of the game for the Maple Leafs? According to Naturalstattrick.com, the High-Danger Chances in the first period were 10-3 for New York. Mitch Marner had two breakaways right at the start of the first period and the Maple Leafs scored a goal to take a 1-0 lead.

Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs

I’m going to guess that might have been Toronto’s three High-Danger Chances in the first. That means for the remainder of the opening period the High-Danger Chances would have been 10-0 for the Islanders. Add the goal they scored at the 1:10 mark of the second period, and that makes the chances 11-0 for New York between the Maple Leafs goal and the Islanders’ third goal.  

Ilya Samsonov

While none of the goals scored by the Islanders were what you would call bad goals on Samsonov, he did allow four goals on 25 goals on 29 shots. That’s a 0.862% Save Percentage. Three of the goals that got by him were scored in seven minutes on nine shots at the end of the first period and the start of the second. 

Conor Timmins

I have been praising Timmins for the past two games, and he did get an assist on the Tavares goal. But, Timmins did struggle with the puck at times in this game. I am not sure what exactly the threshold for giveaways is. According to the game stats, Timmins only had one giveaway in the game. I counted three times in the Toronto zone the puck went from his stick directly to an Islander player’s stick. Timmins also tried an ill-timed solo end-to-end rush that resulted in an odd-man rush the other way.  

Related: Maple Leafs Biggest Surprise This Season: Noah Gregor

The Good

The Maple Leafs started the game out well. For the second game in a row, Marner had a breakaway in the first minute of the game. Unfortunately, he lost the puck as he tried to deke the Islander’s goalie Ilya Sorokin. Shortly thereafter, Marner had a second breakaway. This time he tried a drop pass to Tyler Bertuzzi that failed. However, Marner did draw a slashing penalty on the play and Auston Matthews then scored his 19th goal of the season on the power play. 

Matthews’ goal moved him into a tie for first place in the NHL goal-scoring race with Nikita Kucherov. Matthews has three fewer games played than Kucherov. After going scoreless in six of his previous seven games, Matthews has seven points in his last five (five goals, two assists).

John Tavares

John Tavares came into this game needing two points to attain the 1,000-point threshold. He accomplished that with a key goal and a key assist in the game. Tavares deflected a Conor Timmins point shot/pass behind Sorokin to bring the Maple Leafs to within a goal of the Islanders in the latter half of the second period. Then he was creating havoc in front of the Islander’s goal crease when a William Nylander shot bounced off of him right to Morgan Rielly. Rielly shovelled the puck into the net to tie the game with just 6.4 seconds left in regulation.

John Tavares, Maple Leafs

Tavares becomes the 98th player in NHL history to score 1,000 points. At the age of 33, Tavares shows no signs of slowing down. He has 25 points in 25 games this season and has 105 points in 105 games over the past two seasons. It will be interesting to see how high Tavares can climb in all-time scoring before his career comes to an end. He is presently on a four-game point streak and has five points in that stretch.  

I have to mention it had to be a special moment for Tavares’ dad to be at the game to see his son get his 1,000th point.  

William Nylander

With two assists in the game, Nylander extended his present point streak to five games. He has a goal and six assists in that period. Nylander’s versatility as both a goal scorer and a playmaker has been on display this season. When he was teamed with Tavares, he was the shooter. In that time, he potted 12 goals in his first 17 games playing alongside Tavares. Now, with Matthews, Nylander has six assists in his last five games. Nylander leads the Maple Leafs with 34 points in 25 games, six more points than Matthews, and eight more than Marner. 

Strong Finish

After the Maple Leafs went down 3-1, they turned the game around and dominated the last half of the game. According to Naturalstattick.com, in the last two periods, the High-Danger Scoring Chances in all situations were 15-5 for Toronto, including 9-2 in the third period. 

The Ugly

Morgan Rielly’s goal to tie the game with 6.4 seconds left in the third period was the “Ugly” type of goal the Maple Leafs don’t score enough of. They simply threw everything and everybody at the net.  

Speaking of throwing everyone at the net, I was wondering if the Islanders might challenge the goal based on goalie interference. Tavares was backing into the crease and pretty much leaning on Sorokin when the puck careened off of him to Rielly. It looked like one of those 50/50 calls if they would have challenged it.

I’m sure thousands of Islander fans would have loved to have seen it called off. Thankfully, the play was not challenged. It would be nice to think the Islanders did not want to deprive Tavares of his moment. More than likely however New York did not want to risk losing the challenge and starting the overtime with the Maple Leafs on a four-on-three power play. 

What’s Next?

The Maple Leafs get no rest as they take on the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers tonight in Madison Square Garden. This will be the third game in four nights for both teams as the Rangers played back-to-back games on the weekend before getting Monday off.  

As of the time of writing this post, the starting goalie for the Maple Leafs has not been announced. I have to think it has to be Martin Jones. With the Rangers being a more skilled team than the physical Islanders, I would also expect (and maybe hope) the Maple Leafs to swap out the 36-year-old Reaves for Bobby McMann.  

Related: JOHN TAVARES’ NEXT CONTRACT WITH THE MAPLE LEAFS: HOW MUCH?

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