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article imageMaple Leafs fall to Tavares and the Islanders Special

By Dave Pitman     Jan 7, 2014 in Sports
Toronto - After a 4 a.m. arrival in Toronto that morning, The New York Islanders rallied in the third period to hand the Maple Leafs their second straight loss to a New York hockey team.
The only thing that's been colder than the weather in Toronto lately has been the recent play of the Toronto Maple Leafs. On a frigid Tuesday night in Toronto where temperature dropped to -15 Celsius, the New York Islanders came into town having won four of their last five games, including a 7-3 win over Dallas the night before. John Tavares scored a hat-trick and added two assists in the game, and just 12 hours later was named to the Men's Olympic hockey roster for Team Canada. Coming home to play in front of friends and family in Toronto, Tavares would add three assists in the win over the Leafs, giving him eight points in the last two games.
Starting in net for Toronto was Jonathan Bernier, making his sixth straight start. Bernier was yanked in Saturday nights game against the Rangers when he let in five goals on 32 shots. Despite the loss, Randy Carlyle wasn't ready to sit Bernier on Tuesday.
"When you’re bucked off the horse, I’m sure every cowboy wants to get back and ride that same horse." Said Carlyle at Mondays practice.
Making the start for the Islanders would be Kevin Poulin after regular starter Evgeni Nabokov went down with a lower body injury last night. Poulin has faced the Maple Leafs just once before, earlier in the season, where he allowed five goals on 24 shots.
With Toronto defence-man Carl Gunnarsson out dealing with an elbow injury, newly acquired Tim Gleason would make his debut in the blue and white. Gleason started the game on a pairing with Leafs Captain Dion Phaneuf.
Looking for a bounce-back game after Saturday's embarrassing loss to the Rangers, the crowd at the Air Canada Centre were disappointed early on. Upon puck drop, there seemed to be no energy to the play of the Maple Leafs. New York wouldn't add much themselves, and there was no real momentum to be had until the Leafs would draw first blood. Carrying the puck along the blue line, Paul Ranger let a shot go from the point. Screening the goalie out front, Tyler Bozak got a stick on the puck, deflecting it by Poulin for his sixth of the year to put the Leafs up 1-0. The Leafs would push for another after the goal but were not able to capitalize on chances. With the period drawing to a close, the Leafs would let their guard down and Kyle Okposo struck with less than a minute on the clock. Okposo fired a laser wrist shot by Bernier to tie the game 1-1 as the period drew to a close. Toronto would accomplish a rare occurrence by outshooting their opponent, leading 14-11 in shots.
The second period would take an ugly turn for Toronto early on. New York took a tripping penalty at the top of the frame to give Toronto a shot at the NHL's worst penalty killing team in the Islanders. However, after a bad turn over, New York would strike again on a bizarre shorthanded tally. Jonathan Bernier exited the net to try and play the bouncing puck but with an Islander player closing in, Bernier seemed to abandon it to regain position in the net. Michael Grabner would take advantage of Bernier's poor puck play and wrap around the net to score short handed making it 2-1. The Islanders took another penalty and the Leafs looked to avenge their last Power Play effort as Mason Raymond put the puck through Poulin's five-hole on a difficult angle to tie it up at 2-2. The goal broke a slump for Raymond, it was just his second goal in 16 games. The period ended with the score tied and Toronto still outshooting the Islanders 22-19.
Whatever momentum Toronto carried into the third period came to a screeching halt just over three minutes into play. A save off the pad of Bernier provided a bouncing a rebound that Frans Nielsen burried to put the Islanders up 3-2. Just three minutes later, Calvin De Haan scored his first career NHL goal on a harmless looking floating shot from the point, putting the Islanders up 4-2. The Leafs would score once more on a deflection off Joffrey Lupul's back but that's as close as they'd come. With the net empty, Cal Clutterbuck put the nail in the coffin and the Islanders won 5-3.
Frustration loomed over the players in the dressing room post game, particularly from Jonathan Bernier as he fielded questions from reporters. "It was one of those games…" Bernier said, sitting at his stall. When asked if he appreciated not being pulled by Randy Carlyle, the question seemed to tug on a heart string, "Why would I get pulled," Bernier replied, looking eye to eye with the reporter. As the question was expanded upon, Bernier turned away and remained quiet. There would be no more questions.
Randy Carlyle struggled with the decision to go with Bernier for the sixth consecutive start, a decision he admitted he put a lot of thought into.
"Between Bernier and Reimer, this was not an easy decision to make…" Carlyle told reporters in his post game presser, "It didn't work out in our favour."
"We can't give up goals like we did." said Jay McClement, who was not about to blame Bernier for the loss, "A couple bad bounces." Tyler Bozak also came to defence of Bernier, who he says has been solid for the team this year, especially lately. "I thought we battled hard…" Bozak said post game, trying to remain positive, "Everyone says how terrible were doing but we were 4-2-1 in the last seven games, before tonight… we had solid goaltending and we need to try and stay confident."
Although out-shooting their opponent, which has been a constant struggle for the Maple Leafs to do all year, Randy Carlyle was not impressed with his teams performance. Carlyle was honest and straight forward, as he usually is when addressing the media.
"We need to get a lot more aggressive. We don't have the tenacity that I.. We, expect out of the Toronto Maple Leafs."
The Maple Leafs are now 11-14-5 after their red hot 10-4-0 start. Injuries have proven costly, but recent games have shown when the goaltending isn't carrying the team, they struggle. Nazem Kadri and Mason Raymond finally broke out of slumps, but consistency is key with this team and they continue to struggle to find it. Carlyle has seemed to want to force Jonathan Bernier to take the lead as the bonafide starting goalie, but tonight's matchup proves that James Reimer cannot be left to the side. Toronto will travel to Carolina on Thursday to face the Hurricanes.
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