On Monday morning, all the talk surrounded around John Tavares as this year’s No. 1 draft pick returned to Toronto to face his hometown Maple Leafs for the first time.
By the end of the night, it was all about Dwayne Roloson.
Roloson, who signed a two-year deal with the Isles on July 1, was bombarded all night long by the Leafs, who fired 61 shots on goal, a League high this season, and fought back from a 3-0 deficit.
“I was seeing the puck well,” Roloson said. “You’ve got to give the guys credit. They had a lot of shots, but for the most part they were to the outside. They gave me the opportunity to see things.”
Bailey’s goal was the only shot on goal in the extra session for the Islanders, who were outshot 23-4 in the third period. Toronto’s 61 shots tied a franchise record that was originally set on Feb. 25, 1976 against the Detroit Red Wings. Bailey was left all alone in front of the net, where he one-timed Sean Bergenheim’s feed past Jonas Gustavsson for the game-winner.
“It’s certainly not the way we had it drawn up,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. “We couldn’t win any faceoffs and we were stuck in our zone. We had defensemen playing two-minute shifts just because they couldn’t get off the ice. We were pretty worn down by the middle of that third period. We found a way. It’s a huge two points for us.”
Phil Kessel, Wayne Primeau and Niklas Hagman scored for Toronto, which fell behind 3-0 in the second period on goals from Jeff Tambellini, Matt Moulson and Bergenheim. The Leafs started Vesa Toskala in goal, but he was forced to leave with a groin injury after Bergenheim gave the Isles a three-goal lead on a shorthanded tally at 14:17 of the second. Toronto has won only twice in 11 home games this season.
“I don’t ever remember a game like that,” said Kessel, who had 12 shots himself. “I don’t even know what to say after something like that.
“It was unbelievable. You know again, we didn’t win. We’ve got to bury one more puck. It’s unfortunate. We’re going to keep battling and keep working. We’ve got a good hockey club here — we’re better than our record shows.”
Tavares — who had just one shot on goal in 17:42 — wasn’t the only Islander who returned home on Monday. Moulson, who grew up with Tavares, scored his 11th goal of the season in front of family and friends at 12:23 of the second — only 1:19 after Tambellini fired a wrist shot past Toskala to break a scoreless tie. Bergenheim made it 3-0 less than two minutes later on a wrister from the right circle.
“It was pretty amazing when I got that goal,” Moulson said. “It was just a tip-in, but that’s my type of goal. When it went in, I just looked around and thought, ‘Wow, I just scored at the ACC.”‘
Kessel scored just 1:15 after Bergenheim put the Isles up by three, which gave Toronto some momentum heading into the third. Primeau scored at 2:10 of the third period from his knees before Hagman easily got around Freddy Meyer and tied the game at 9:18.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction here,” Leafs defenseman Ian White said.
New York returns home on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time since a 6-3 win against the Atlanta Thrashers on Nov. 7. Clearly, Roloson’s performance made the flight back to Long Island much more enjoyable as his Isles picked up points in five of the seven road games.
“It’s huge,” Roloson said after helping his team finish the trip with a record of 3-2-2. “The seven-game road trip has been tough, but at the same time we got enough points to be over .500, and that’s a good thing when you’re on the road for that many games in a row.”
“We’re not going to kid ourselves … that game probably is not even close if not for his performance,” Gordon said.