Just into the second quarter of their NHL schedule, the Leafs have the second-highest points total in the Eastern Conference. A 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Monday night kept them on the heels of the front-running Buffalo Sabres.
John Pohl, Kyle Wellwood, Darcy Tucker and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored Toronto’s goals, and Andrew Raycroft, returning to the crease after missing three games with a strained groin muscle, made 19 saves for the goaltending win.
Chris Simon and Jason Blake scored for the Islanders, who headed home after their first regulation-time loss of a five-game road trip. Rick Dipietro stopped 29 shots.
Toronto outshot New York 13-5 and jumped to a 3-1 lead in the first period.
Pohl slammed home a cross-crease Wade Belak pass at 2:53, 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.
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 as the Islanders pressed for a tying goal.
Toronto had a 10-6 shots advantage in the period, and Ponikarovsky sealed the win when, with his back to the net, he backhanded in a rebound with DiPietro down and out of position during a scramble at 18:51.
Notes: 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. . . . This was the first game in Canada this season for the Islanders and head coach Ted Nolan. . . . D Ian White leads all NHL rookies in ice time after averaging 21 minutes eight seconds through the first 21 games.