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Maple Leafs trade goals with the Islanders and win 5-4

Remember this time last year, when all we did was argue about probability? This is better.

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Let’s get right to it, the exciting matchup between the Leafs and one of the teams they fought off to make the playoffs last year, of course they’re still rivals, right? Right?

First Period

Gee, this business about how William Nylander had a bad game last time is riveting.

The game starts fast and looks like it might be an up and down the ice affair. Fair assumption, the Islanders and the Leafs are in competition to see who gives up the most shots. But then suddenly, it’s like everyone stops dead. No one is skating hard for a bit, and then a Mitch Marner chance — not much of one — leads to some Islanders action, and Frederick Andersen has to make a series of good saves.

Games against teams out of the playoffs can be weird.

Zach Hyman to Nylander for a play that looks good. Christopher Gibson is in net, and this is smart for the Islanders. They should play him the rest of their games. Either he’s a NHL prospect or he isn’t, and now is the time to see what he has.

Faceoff crackdown seems to be back, by the way. Tyler Bozak gets kicked, and last night’s Boston-Tampa game was non-stop faceoff ejections.

The Leafs are finished warmup now and skating harder halfway into the first.

This is how it goes down, the puck rolls down the ice, and Connor Carrick gets to it first, but Anthony Beauvilier easily ties up Carrick, and the puck is quickly the Islanders’ property. Travis Dermott tries to control it vs another Islanders’ player and he punts it around behind the net to Patrick Marleau, who thinks about it for a while before he does anything with it. All that gets him is Jordan Eberle on him, and Marleau tries to punt the puck up the boards. Eberle gets the puck, the Islanders get set up easily as the Leafs are just fluttering around, and bing, bang, down goes Andersen, courtesy of Eberle’s skate on his, and in goes the puck courtesy of Beauvilier.

Does Andersen have time to get up out of his toddler sprawl while he glares at the ref? Yeah, likely. A challenge ensues. Yipee!

Goal stands.

1-0 Islanders.

Carrick and Dermott were battling with the Islanders’ little guys. Maybe they should be able to win those?

Bozak breaks up a rush in the neutral zone, that’s how easy this team is to disrupt.

Nothing like a goal against to make the Matthews line work three times as hard as anyone else. And so they do, and a power play to the Leafs ensues as Anders Lee takes a slashing penalty.

Wow, that was fast. The Leafs win the faceoff battle, get it to Marner, and well, really that’s all you need these days. Nazem Kadri with the tip.

1-1 game.

Immediately after, Dom Moore tries to ensure he never plays again by taking a tripping penalty.

Hyman and Andreas Johnsson get loose and go for a joyride. Connor Brown steals the puck again before the Islander can get setup. Johnsson and Hyman again. This power play looks so bad, until in the very last few seconds they get set up, pass it around and Johnny Boychuk wails one through a failed block attempt by Johnsson and right by Andersen.

2-1 Islanders.

I was promised a low scoring game, here.

The Leafs almost get through the last two minutes, but the refs call a deeply weak hooking call on Matthews at the horn. I can’t even figure out where it happened.

Second Period

The Marlies are in Winnipeg for the weekend letting Adam Brooks visit his parents. They play their first game at 8 p.m. our time. Brooks starts the game, and Calvin Pickard, another Winnipeg boy, is in net.

Meanwhile, the Leafs are killing a stupid penalty, which they do as easily as they almost did the first one.

Dermott just sprawled out to block a Dennis Seidenberg shot on the slowest two-on-one in recorded history. I mean, why? Seidenberg has no shot, and he doesn’t shoot it, he tries, badly, to pass it. Is Dermott so green, he doesn’t realize Seidenberg is old enough to be his dad?

Speaking of, Marner nearly sets up Dad Marleau for another.

The Leafs get some zone time going because first Zaitsev, and then Gardiner, keep it in at the blueline.

Zaitsev shoots it at the slot, looking for a tip from Nylander, but it goes in off of Matt Barzal’s stick so it’s Zaitsev’s goal. Barzal is such a good scorer, he can do it for any team, not just his own. That was setup to be identical to Kadri’s goal.

2-2 game.

If Z, who has been not nearly as bad as you all think, but has struggled since coming back, peaks now, that’s cool. Nice pass from that Matthews guy too.

The Moose score first on a Jeremy Bracco penalty, so that’s a thing that happened.

Sigh. Meanwhile in Brooklyn, the Islanders are on a delayed penalty when Marner takes an offensive zone penalty, and Brock Nelson is the man who rolls off the bench behind the play while the Leafs are chugging hard to get to the defensive zone, and yeah.

3-2 Islanders.

Auston Matthews double shifting with the “fourth” line, as Moore is getting a bit of sitdown. Huh, again, this totally coincidentally gives Babcock a chance to evaluate Johnsson on a scoring line. (And just like with Nylander there were a couple of shifts between the bad play and the benching. It all seems so calculated.)

Oh, a goal! Wait what, Mitch Marner is the net-front guy? The Islanders kind of just stand still and watch Kadri in the corner go low-to-high to Gardiner, who shoot/passes it in to JvR, er Marner at the net.

3-3 game.

It’s about time Marner scored. He’s really been slacking compared to all these 30 goal guys.

The Moose are outshooting the Marlies a lot, which is bad, but wait, someone tied the game! Dmytro Timashov at 19:54. That’s a gut punch for the Moose. Poor things.

The Leafs, meanwhile, have a minute to kill. Which they do with a little help from the Marner vs Barzal show.

Third Period

The period starts more like a real hockey game with lots of speed and play as tight as these two teams can produce.

The Bozak line rolls out and Ron Hainsey wails it in from the point, and the rebound comes right to James van Riemsdyk in the high slot (yes, the high slot) and it’s 4-3 Leafs, and add a million to JvR’s AAV for his next contract.

Connor Brown takes a hooking penalty while trying to defend. Power play time for the Islanders again.

Andersen does most of the PK work, as the PKers are hemmed right in, and eventually a puck comes right to John Tavares on the corner of the net. In it goes.

4-4 game.

While the Leafs try to get the lead back, the Marlies do score to make it 2-1. Brooks, of course. He loves the Winnipeg air. Ben Smith is now in first place in points on the Marlies with two assists so far tonight.

The Islanders pin the Kadri line pretty hard, and then Tavares runs over Morgan Rielly, but it’s Lee and Kadri having a reasoned discussion about it all. Tavares is all mad about a hook from Marner, and he gives it to the ref on the bench after.

We are playing four-on-four now for two minutes. Matthews gets a chance and then Andersen is flopping around like McElhinney stopping everything the Islanders have.

You guys, aren’t — uh — planning OT are you?

Islanders take a penalty for ye olde puck over the glass, and the Leafs can get the go-ahead goal here.

The Marner unit comes out second, after some very good play by the Matthews unit. Andersen has to make a save on a shorty chance from Nelson.

On a chip in play, this is such classic play for the Matthews crew, just post PP, that you can forget how damn good this is:

5-4 Leafs.

Four minutes, Leafs, do the thing. The Marlies have let the Moose tie it up at two-all.

The Islanders get some heavy zone time, and Andersen is looking over his shoulder, but the puck went wide.

Whee, finally the Leafs clear. Sort of. And we’re back defending. And Gibson is out of his net.

The Leafs get some heavy zone time vs the empty net and can’t score.

Barzal shoots the puck right at Andersen, and Andersen baseball swats it out of the zone, but the refs say no the play is dead.

We waste some time with a timeout and fussing on the clock, but Andersen ties Ed Belfour and Andrew Raycroft for Leafs wins in a season (yes, wins are a team stat, shhh).


This is your reward if you made it through this game and this recap. Four more games to go!


Bonus Marlies-Moose third period. I’m just going with the radio call. The Moose are second to the Marlies in points.

The Brooks goal from the second:

And the third sounds fun. Brendan Lemieux just punched Pickard in the face. As is their way, after a bad first period, the Marlies poured on the shots in the second. The third seems tighter.

Both the Marlies and the Leafs are now teams that don’t blow off games even when down. They almost never lose in anything like a blowout.

This period was very tight for shots until there was almost no time left and Brooks got the puck and roared up ice to dish to Chris Mueller. 3-2 Marlies! Brooks with two points, and Pickard with another win on the road. Take that Moose!