I’m honestly not even that mad about the Leafs’ first non-win of the 2010-11 season. The Buds battled all night, dominated play (outshooting Islanders 22-11 in the last two periods), had a couple close calls go the other way and still came away with a point. It’s an entirely different experience watching a Leafs team this year that looks like they not only want to win, but expect to.
As much as I wanted Kris Versteeg’s apparent game-tying goal to count, it’s clear from the replays that the play was being blown dead as he scored, and that the puck did indeed make contact with his stick above the crossbar. Watch around the 1:20 mark of this video for the best look at it.
John Tavares and Dwayne Roloson, along with a diving save by Radek Martinek, pretty much won the game for the Isles on their own. Tavares made the first goal happen with a one-touch backhand pass that was simply too quick for either Leaf defenseman to react to. His game-winning bullet in overtime was taken with Francois Beauchemin half-screening JS Giguere and the Isles on a 4-on-3 powerplay, but it was still a hell of a shot.
Rollie finished with 29 saves to Jiggy’s 18, but the biggest save of the game goes to Martinek, who had the presence of mind to flop in the crease and block a shot with his chest when a centering pass found Freddie Sjostrom alone in the slot with literally seconds left to play. Clarke MacArthur saw his franchise record goal streak to start the season as a Leaf come to an end (damn, that’s quite a mouthful – good luck getting laid using that line, Supermac), but Phil Kessel’s late wrist shot into the bottom of the net pushed him to five goals and a team-leading 7 points.
It’s obviously disappointing any time your team loses, but would any Leaf fan deny that, if asked a month ago whether or not they’d be ecstatic with a 4-0-1 start, they would most definitely have answered affirmatively. The Islanders are off to a pretty hot start of their own, leading the tough Atlantic Division, and the Leafs still outplayed them, without question. Tough breaks and hot goalies are going to come along throughout an NHL season, the challenge is to move on, using hard losses as nothing more than motivation to win the next one.