This past weekend, the New York Islanders hoped to recollect after a tough stretch with a game in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. Coming into the game, the Islanders lost four of six, and seemed to struggle against easier teams and dominate in games against harder opponents.
The Isles had Semyon Varlamov lead the team out which indicated this is his fourth straight start for the team after the bulk of the beginning of the season featured a goalie rotation. After the Adam Pelech “freak accident”, the Isles called up Sebastian Aho to fill the open spot on the defense. He did not play against Toronto as Noah Dobson took his spot. The Maple Leafs decided to start Michael Hutchinson in net. Going into that start, Hutchinson had only played on back-to-backs, so this was his first start that did not feature Frederik Andersen playing the day before, or the day after.
During the first period of the game, the Islanders, who are currently struggling defensively, had a strong period and an abundance of energy. The Leafs offense did not look as strong as usual with multiple turn overs that reoccurred in the period. The period ended 0-0, and the shots were favored in the Islanders’ direction, seven to six.
With seven minutes left in the second, Kasperi Kapanen dished the puck through Dobson’s legs and over to Pierre Engvall, who netted his sixth of the season, giving the Leafs a 1-0 lead despite still being outplayed. The Islanders looked strong and threw pucks at the net but none of the shots could find the back of the net. Shortly before the period came to a close, Auston Matthews gets the puck as a result of a Mitch Marner pass and tipped it in to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead heading into the third.
During the third period, the Islanders continued to dominate, but couldn’t get anything passed Hutchinson. The Isles had 23 shots during the first 40 minutes and added ten in the last 20. Zach Hyman scored on an empty net to seal the Leafs’ win with 2:08 to go in the game. Hutchinson made 33 saves in the victory, marking his third straight win and first shutout. The Leafs continued their hot streak, improving to 9-0-1 in the ten-game stretch.
The Islanders players showed frustration in the locker room after recognizing their hard work and domination on the ice. Johnny Boychuk mentioned in his postgame interview how multiple posts were hit and the Isles had a lot of good opportunities throughout the game during their attempt to get one on the board. Barry Trotz was satisfied with his team based on their energy and effort during the game, and he mentioned that the Islanders have the offensive prowess, but for some reason, it’s not showing. The team plans to work more at that while keeping a positive headspace for future games.