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Rapid Reaction: Islanders Win Streak Snapped, Outplayed in Loss to Leafs

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New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs

ELMONTThe New York Islanders failed to push their win streak to four games as they fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 on Saturday night in the second of their back-to-back. The Islanders fall back to NHL .500 with a 14-14-6 record, a 7-7-3 record at UBS Arena.

How it Happened

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner scored to make it a 1-0 contest as he beat New York Islanders netminder Semyon Varlamov five-hole on a short-handed breakaway at 13:25 of the first period. Toronto defenseman Morgan Reilly intercepted a Mat Barzal pass inside the Toronto zone and fed Marner in stride. Reilly was credited with the assist on Marner’s ninth of the season.

New York Islanders forward Zach Parise knotted the contest at one with a minute to play in the first period. From the Islander zone, Scott Mayfield sent an alley-oop pass through the neutral zone that landed right in front of Parise, who skated through two Toronto defensemen before he beat Toronto netminder Petr Mrazek high blocker side on the backhand. Mayfield was credited with the lone assist on Parise’s second of the season.

Pierre Engvall gave Toronto a 2-1 lead with less than a second to play in the first period. Toronto forward Ilya Mikaheyev tied up Noah Dobson along the boards, as Engvall picked up the loose puck, toe-dragged around Andy Greene, and slid the puck under the glove of a sliding Varlamov.

Morgan Reilly made it a 3-1 game as William Nylander’s pass through the slot found Reilly for the one-time chance that beat Varlamov glove side. Nylander and Kerfoot credited with the assist on Reilly’s fifth at 9:42 of the second period.

Miscues Sink Islanders

The New York Islanders played one of their better, if not their best defensive game in their 4-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night. But their defensive game was not present on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

All three Toronto Maple Leafs goals came off miscues.

The first, a turnover by Mathew Barzal at the Toronto blue line while on the power play led to a breakaway chance for Mitch Marner, which he buried.

The second goal against came due to a lack of attention in their own zone. With seconds remaining in the first period, the Islanders got caught puck watching. Noah Dobson was knocked off the puck, and by the time Andy Greene stepped up on Pierre Engvall, the breakdown was already in progress.

But a strong move by Engvall allowed him to get around Greene and beat Varlamov.

And the third goal for Toronto came off a major defensive lapse, as Morgan Reilly was left all alone back door. Austin Czarnik was manning the slot but was nowhere close to Reilly and failed to stop the pass.

Semyon Shaky For Islanders Early On

The first two goals of the contest for the Toronto Maple Leafs are two goals that New York Islanders netminder Semyon Varlamov would want back.

Yes, both were in-tight dekes, but two more than capable saves. Marner’s breakaway goal saw Varlamov get beat five-hole. Pressure from Dobson allowed for a weaker shot, which was not really a shot at all as it just glided off of Marner’s stick.

Varlamov was in the proper position to stop the goal, but his stick was not.

The second goal, albeit a nice toe-drag, saw Varlamov again play the shot well and get a good chunk of the Engvall shot. But not enough.

Varlamov just failed to track the shot correctly.

Both these goals came off mistakes by the players in front of him. But in a contest against a rather dominant offensive hockey team, goals that can be stopped need to be. The Islanders can ill-afford to give goals to an opponent that had the seventh-best offense (3.38 goals per game) in the NHL.

Although Varlamov settled down as the game went on, making some big saves to keep the Islanders in the contest, the tough start put the Islanders in a hole they could not get out of.

Islanders Make Mrazek’s Night Easy

Just as the Arizona Coyotes’ inept offense backed by the New York Islanders’ defense made netminder Ilya Sorokin’s night an easy one on Friday, the Islanders’ lack of offense allowed for Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Petr Mrazek to have a rather easy night in between the pipes.

The Islanders threw 24 shots at Mrazek Saturday night, but only six were considered high-danger opportunities.

Mrazek’s crease was not crowded often with Islanders’ players. Even when there were bodies in front, either the Toronto defensemen got their bodies in front or the Islanders did not do a good enough job at taking Mrazek’s eyes away.

Game Notes: 

In honor of Clark Gillies, who passed away Friday at the age of 67,  the New York Islanders wore “no. 9” patches on their jerseys.

Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows swapped places for Saturday night’s contest, as Bellows made his way back onto the ice while Wahlstrom took a seat. Austin Czarnik remained on the top line for a second straight game.

Ross Johnston was on the ice for warmups but did not play.

Kieffer Bellows was a healthy scratch for Friday’s tilt.

Up Next: The New York Islanders will host the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, Jan. 25 at UBS Arena.

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