The coach loved the early 3-1 lead, and he hated the rest of it. “I liked our first period but I was very disappointed after that – that we didn’t finish the deal hard,” he said. “I did not enjoy the win as much as some other ones. “We weren’t handing out roses after that game.”
John Pohl, Kyle Wellwood, Darcy Tucker and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored Toronto’s goals, and Andrew Raycroft, returning after missing three games with a strained groin muscle, made 19 saves for the win.
“It’s a good start,” Raycroft said. “It’s good to get over that first hump.”
Chris Simon and Jason Blake scored for the Islanders, who headed home after the first regulation-time loss of a five-game road trip. Rick Dipietro stopped 29 shots.
It was the first game in Canada for the Islanders this season, and Ted Nolan was behind the Air Canada Centre visitors’ bench for the first time in the nine years since he last coached in the NHL with Buffalo.
“It was a good atmosphere, but a bad result,” said Nolan.
DiPietro wouldn’t buy suggestions he and his teammates might have been pooped at the end of their road trip.
“How many games have we played, 20?” he said, missing the exact number of 19. “(Being) tired is a bad excuse.”
Toronto outshot New York 13-5 in the first period and jumped ahead 3-1.
Pohl slammed home a cross-crease Wade Belak pass at 2:53 for his second goal of the season and first since Oct. 20, Simon slapped one in from the middle of Toronto’s zone at 5:03, Wellwood deked DiPietro to the ice and flipped in a high shot at 5:54 after taking a 2-on-1 pass from Nik Antropov, and Tucker slapped in a cross-ice Tomas Kaberle pass on a power play at 9:23 with Alexei Zhitnik off for holding.
Tucker leads the Leafs with 13 goals, including 10 on power plays.
“I’m getting open,” Tucker said of his power-play proficiency. “When you have two defencemen (like Kaberle and Bryan McCabe) who move the puck so well, they’ll find you eventually.”
Seven penalties were assessed in the second period and, despite all the power plays, there was only one goal. The Islanders got it despite being outshot 10-8. With Alexander Suglobov off for slashing, Yashin worked a give-and-go with Mike Sillinger and got a cross-crease pass to Blake for a tap-in into the open side of the Leafs net at 16:01.
Raycroft made some of his best saves in the third period when the Islanders pressed for a tying goal.
Toronto had a 10-8 shots advantage in the third and Ponikarovsky sealed the win when he backhanded in a rebound with DiPietro down and out of position during a scramble at 18:51.
The Leafs have just entered the second quarter of their schedule and have the second-highest points total in the Eastern Conference, but Maurice made sure none of his players went home with a satisfied mind.
“We were better than (the Islanders) were, but we should have been better than that,” Maurice said. “We didn’t play the way I wanted us to play after the first period.
“There wasn’t enough profanity on the bench. I made up for that in the third period.”
His players got the message – loud and clear.
“They probably outplayed us the last two periods and that didn’t sit well with the coach,” said Pohl. “He gave it to us after the game.”
The Islanders are tied for 10th in the East.
“We’re kind of reverting back to the same thing we’ve been struggling with the last couple of years: we have some success, then we follow it up with failure, then come back with a good game,” said DiPietro. “If we want to be a great team in this league, and I know we do, Teddy and the players aren’t going to settle for mediocrity.
“We don’t want to be a team that just sneaks into the playoffs. We want to be a team that does out there and wins every night.”
They’ve got a long ways to go, and so do the Leafs, according to Maurice.
Notes: Pohl’s goal was his second of the season and first since Oct. 20. . . . Toronto was 2-for-6 and New York 1-for-6 on power plays. . . . Toronto is at Buffalo on Wednesday and at Washington on Friday. . . . Mats Sundin, out since Nov. 6 with an elbow injury, hopes to return Saturday when Boston visits. . . . Sundin is three goals shy of tying Jean Beliveau at 507 for 32nd place on the all-time goals list. . . . D Ian White leads all NHL rookies in ice time after averaging 21 minutes eight seconds through the first 21 games.