The Islanders got off to one of the slower starts that we've seen in the last few weeks. A minute and a half into the game, Clarke MacArthur went wide around the Islanders defensive zone coverage and lifted a shot over Evgeni Nabokov's right shoulder. A few more rushes like that and it was 2-0 before you knew it. It looked like it was going to be a long night on the Island.
But after going down 3-0, the Islanders fought back and were desperately trying to get a point out of the game. Kyle Okposo scored on a nice wrist shot to cut the Maple Leafs lead down to two. At the beginning of the second, with the Islanders on the power play Frans Nielsen scored to bring the Islanders within one. The energy was back in the building and many hoped that the Islanders would turn the game around.
But the Isles defensive zone coverage was still lacking, and Joey Crabb scored for the Leafs short handed on a 2-on-1 break to put the Leafs up two again and temporarily kill any momentum the Isles had.
After John Tavares scored on a pretty looking dangle in the slot off of a nice behind the net feed from P.A. Parenteau, the Islanders pressed once again, getting some good chances in on James Reimer who looked just as shaky as Nabokov did.
In the last few minutes of the game, however, the Islanders had the rug pulled out from under them.
Joffrey Lupul delivered a nasty hit on Tavares with three minutes remaining, leaving Tavares sprawled out on the ice trying to shake the cob webs out of his head. Sounds like the Islanders should get a power play, right?
The referees, Don VanMassenhoven and David Banfield, felt that Tavares committed a dive, embellishing a hard check to the head. Really now? I think it's hard for any player to do that.
So instead of getting a much deserved power play, the Islanders played four on four, essentially killing the momentum they were getting at a crucial point in the game.
"They were...tough calls, I think," a frustrated Matt Martin said after the games conclusion. "The refs obviously only have two eyes, and they can't see everything but obviously, I don't agree with that call on (Tavares)."
"It's unfortunate. With three minutes left in the game we had our best player sitting in the box." Martin felt that the Islanders just need to quickly move on from what happened, however. He also pointed out that if they had started the game the way they should be, they would have never been in that position (down one late in the game).
Martin took an inadvertent elbow in the head from Keith Aulie in the second period - one fans were irked about and made no secret about it on our Twitter account. However, there was no malice meant on that play and it was more of a freak thing. Martin said as much, and feels that Aulie was just following through on trying to get the puck up ice quickly at the same time Martin was hitting him.
Travis Hamonic pulled no punches with his feelings on the officiating, although was a little bit more cryptic with his response to my question on the officiating.
"My opinion on the calls," Hamonic repeated, as he stared towards the ground, smirking, thinking of the proper way to say things. "The calls are the calls. I guess that's why they're the refs and we're the players."
"It's frustrating. John takes a cross check to the head, goes down and - well, calls are calls and we have to live with it. It's our job to battle through those circumstances."
Jack Capuano was also visibly frustrated, saying he got no explanation on the refs ruling in that situation. Doug Weight obviously had some choice words for the officials in those last few minutes, and finished the game by squirting water in the general vicinity of the officiating crew.
The Islanders need to harness some of these emotions and use it to their advantage on Monday night against the Rangers. Frustrated with how things have gone lately, they need to take it out against their rivals. No, I don't mean cross checking guys to the head. I mean fore checking as hard as you can, playing tough defense and taking the body. None of this "let the guy skate around me" like we saw in this game. Throw your weight around a bit and show that you mean business.
Now, it's time for everyone to relax a bit and enjoy the Christmas weekend.
To all our readers, we'd like to wish you a Happy Holiday weekend. Hopefully you are enjoying it as much as we are. Like we said last week, we aren't doing a show for the next two weeks but will return to our normal positions after next weekend.
Enjoy your time with your loved ones, and stay safe!