After a sluggish start in the second of a back-to-back, a goal by Zach Parise with one minute to go in the opening frame had the New York Islanders knotted up with the well-rested Toronto Maple Leafs at one apiece.
Heading to the dressing room tied at one, thanks to a strong showing by the penalty kill (2 for 2), would have been a sure positive against the seventh-best offense in the NHL. The New York Islanders had held a dynamic offense to just nine shots on goal in the first period and registered seven of their own.
It’s not to say that it was an even-played first period by any means, but it was one that the Islanders certainly could and should have built on.
But the Islanders may have mentally strolled to the locker room before the buzzer sounded to end the frame.
Toronto took advantage of a bad Islanders line change, as they quickly got the puck up into the Islanders zone with seconds remaining.
Defenseman Noah Dobson could not keep the puck contained on the near-side boards as the puck sat unguarded inside the left circle.
Toronto forward Pierre Engvall picked up the puck, made a savvy move to get around defenseman Andy Greene before he beat Semyon Varlamov under the glove to give Toronto a 2-1 lead with less than a second to play before the buzzer sounded.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 23, 2022
“You never want to give up a goal at any point, at the end of a period but we have a group here that knew we still had a lot of time left to get ourselves back in the game.” Casey Cizikas said regarding the late Toronto tally. “It doesn’t matter what happens. You’re ready for the next shift no matter what…”
Unfortunately, there was no next shift for the Islanders to bounce back. And what life the Islanders did show in the first period did not carry over into the second.
“I thought we gave them two freebies in the first period and I thought it affected us in the second period,” Head coach Barry. Trotz said. “We just didn’t have that little bit of that life that you need…”
The Islanders, to their credit, did generate more offense in the third period.
A Toronto team that had blown 3-1 leads in four of their last five contests paid more attention to the defensive side of the puck in the final twenty minutes.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but if the Islanders were able to close out the first period and head to the locker room following a late equalizer rather than a late goal against, that’s not to say the result would have been different.
Still, the energy level may have been slightly higher for the New York Islanders in a game where energy was the main issue that ailed them.