Late rally lifts Maple Leafs over Islanders
The Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to defeat the New York Islanders 3-1 on Tuesday night, but they crept no closer to the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
The Maple Leafs trailed 1-0 in the third period, but Kyle Wellwood tied it at 7:24, Pavel Kubina put them ahead at 11:09, and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored an empty-net goal to clinch the win with 28 seconds remaining.
Even so, Toronto is still six points behind the eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2 winners over the Atlanta Thrashers.
"It feels really good to have a multi-point night," said Wellwood, who earned an assist on Kubina's goal.
"I have not had one in a long time. It must be at least 50 games or so."
Vesa Toskala shook off the embarrassment of misplaying a 174-foot shot by Rob Davison for a goal, finishing with 27 saves for the Maple Leafs (33-31-10), who have won four straight road games.
Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov, who sit 1-2 in team scoring, were scratched from the lineup because of groin and knee injuries, respectively, and Carlo Colaiacovo left in the first period with an injured hamstring.
Wade Dubielewicz had 23 saves as the Islanders (32-35-7) suffered a sixth straight setback.
New York had scored just 14 goals in its last nine games, losing eight.
Dubielewicz started in place of Rick DiPietro, who had an MRI on his ailing hip — the same one he hurt in the all-star skills competition.
"I don't care who is in the lineup," Islanders head coach Ted Nolan said. "We have to compete.
"We didn't have any drive. We played OK, but OK isn't getting you into the playoffs."
"We took some bad penalties again," Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. "We're right back to where we were."
Davison staked New York to a 1-0 lead on a shocking short-handed goal 13:48 into the contest.
Davison was killing a penalty when he regained control of the puck to the left of his own net and cleared it out of the zone.
The puck travelled the length of the ice toward Toskala, who watched in disbelief as it bounced over his trapper and into the net.
It was Davison's first goal of the season and third in the NHL.
"It just took a bad bounce right in front of me," Toskala said.
"I wasn't worried because we were playing well and I figured we would get one back," Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice said. "But as we started the third period, I got a little uneasy."
Toronto had a splendid chance to tie it midway through the second period, but a sprawling Dubielewicz extended his right pad to deny Matt Stajan on a short-handed breakaway.
It remained 1-0 until Wellwood deflected Steen's shot between Dubielewicz's pads for his seventh at 7:28 of the third period.
After Islanders defenceman Aaron Johnson was penalized for holding Jason Blake, Kubina notched his 10th on a rising slapshot.
Kubina has scored four goals in his past four games, including three winners.
"I'm getting a little more time on the power play," he said. "Kabby [Tomas Kaberle] found me and I just shot it."
With files from the Canadian Press