On Thursday the Isles defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs by the score of 3-2 for their third straight win. It was also the third straight game they defeated an opponent by one goal. The Islanders are 22-4-1 in one-goal games this season.
"These are the ways you win hockey games this time of year and in the playoffs," John Tavares said after the win. "So for us it's good to see us handle these games a lot better than we did last year."
The Islanders jumped to a 1-0 lead 1:11 into the first period on the team's first shot of the game. Anders Lee picked off the puck in the offensive zone and found a way to put it past Jonathan Bernier. Moments later, Casey Cizikas cleaned up a Colin McDonald rebound to push the Isles on top 2-0.
Momentum quickly shifted in the second period as the Leafs scored twice in the opening 4:09 to even the score.
"They hemmed us in really well," Lee said about the start of the second period. "Every team is going to fight and they fought back. They obviously tied up the game and we were able to get ahead at the end, but you can't expect a team to roll over and they came back pretty well."
Lee put the Islanders back in front for good midway through the second period. Travis Hamonic fired a shot from the point and Lee put the rebound into the back of the net to make it a 3-2 game.
The Islanders may have not had the prettiest win against the Leafs, but the team continues to find ways to win close games. After Lee's go ahead goal, the Islanders settled down and remained in control the rest of the game.
"We just seemed to have a few shifts there that they got some energy," Tavares said. "It was just staying with it and eventually we got back to our game in the second half of that period. That led to our goal."
The Islanders finished the game outshooting the Leafs 41-34 and Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves, recording his career-high 30th win of the season.
More importantly, the Isles continue to prove that they've come far from where they were last season. The Maple Leafs are a team they should beat and they did. The outcome was closer than you might expect, but grabbing two more important points is what matters at the end.
For another night, the Islanders will stay on top of the Metropolitan Division.