Tonight, a near-perfect story wasn’t complete for John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The captain enters this game with 998 career points and has a chance to reach the 1,000-point milestone against the team that drafted him and in front of fans who can’t help but boo every time he touches the puck. Obtained.
Auston Matthews scored on the power play after Robert Bortuzzo slashed Mitch Marner. Ironically, this was the first of only two penalties in the entire match. Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas and Kyle Palmieri scored the next three goals for the Islanders, while Tavares brought the Leafs within one point with a mid-range shot in the second half. Morgan Rielly sent the game into overtime, and it took the final 10 seconds of regulation for Toronto to regain the game (overtime didn’t last very long).
The cliche “save on one end, score on the other” was born for the Leafs. Ilya Sorokin stopped Matthews twice and Noah Dobson dropped Matthew Barzal and Bo Horvat to the ice. Ilya Samsonov was unable to stop Horvat’s shot, allowing the Islanders to score their second goal.
1. John Tavares
He has scored 1,000 points in 1,054 games, 669 points as an Islander and 385 points as a Leaf. For Tavares, it was too perfect an opportunity for him not to hit it, especially with his father watching in the arena. Both points originate from the area where Tavares became famous. He easily got past Bortuzzo for the second-period goal, circling around and slamming into open ice to take a deflection off Connor Timmins’ shot.
William Nylander’s shot on net deflected off Tavares, who was in front of Sorokin, and hit Lilly at the side of the net. The entire team came off the bench to celebrate his historic night, when he became the 98th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 career points.
2. Auston Matthews
He finished the night with 13 shot attempts and 11 shots on target. His 19th of the season came from a great passing play between himself, Nylander and Marner. Matthews had five shots in the opening period and could have scored two more goals if not for the post.
3. Morgan Lilly
After a nice break from post-regulation play, Rielly’s fourth shot of the season sent the Leafs into overtime.
survive and thrive
Things changed for the Leafs after Matthews’ goal. The Islanders responded quickly with a series of runs in the Leafs’ zone and took control on the forecheck. They looked overwhelmed at times and made mistakes on low puck downs that the Islanders took advantage of. He had a one shot difference at 5-on-5 (14 for vs. 8 against), but the scoring chances emphasized the slope of the ice. The Islanders had 18 scoring chances to the Leafs’ eight, and 10 of those were dangerous chances.
The Leafs pushed hard in the second and second half of the third period. That speed and effort allowed them to spend more time in the offensive zone, using their sticks to force turnovers on the boards and earn additional scoring opportunities. The start of the third period was a little disappointing, but it was pretty much the same as the rest of the first period.
The Leafs were in and out of the Islanders’ side, but it wasn’t until the final minutes of the game that they started piling up shots. They had 10 shots in the final five minutes of regulation, but it took some chaos in front of Sorokin to beat him and tie the score.
Here’s what happened with the opponent’s first and second goals. For Nelson’s goal, Pierre Envall stepped forward and screened Samsonov for the goal. Rielly and Bertuzzi move forward to intercept Nelson, but by the time they arrive the shot is already heading towards Samsonov.
It’s easy to blame Marner for Zikas’ goal, but it was an unfortunate team effort there too. Rielly and Jake McCabe both tackled Hudson Fassing, who entered the zone and moved the puck to the right corner. Rielly is with Cal Clutterbuck the whole time, so McCabe doesn’t have to corner him. Clutterbuck gets the puck and sends it in front of the net. Marner could not control the ball and the puck fell onto Zikas’ stick and went for the goal. Max Domi was with Cizikas earlier and tried to tie up the sticks but couldn’t.
The fight to protect the “lost” goal
Samsonov gave the Leafs perfect goaltending, but Sorokin was much better. It took Matthews’ accurate shooting, Tavares’ deflection and a chaotic 6-on-5 shift to beat him. Samsonov was on the screen for the first and third goals, but his timing and reading of the play wasn’t the best. He closed out the game in the third period, making several timely saves to help the Leafs tie the game. His best was Timmins’ turnover and Palmieri’s rush.
Final rating: B
In the other game, Nick Robertson, Max Domi and Calle Jarnkrok were the only line to win at 5-on-5 (64.4 expected goals percentage). However, I thought there were individual performances, such as Matthews, who was a shot creator, and Nylander, who finished the game with two assists. Matthew Knies had another solid game as the main forechecker on the line. Marner got off to a good start with two break chances, one of which led to a power play, and Tavares had a night to remember.
I also thought Noah Gregor was a shining light on the fourth line, even if there wasn’t much good going on with this trio. Good hitting in the first period led to a one-timer by Ryan Reeves, and there was a chance to tie the game in the third period, but Sorokin stopped it just in time.
This is a game where you tip your cap to the goalie on the other side of the ice. The Leafs could do better if Sorokin was out of the game a little more, or if the post didn’t get in the way of Matthews.
A pleasant moment
What’s next for the Leafs?
The Leafs will face the New York Rangers on Tuesday, so there won’t be much travel between this game and the next, which will likely be Martin Jones’ first start of the 2023-24 season.
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)