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Kadri records first hat trick as Maple Leafs hold off Islanders

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Dion Phaneuf said "relief" was too strong a term to describe the feelings of the Toronto Maple Leafs after his goal 1:11 into overtime lifted the Leafs to a 5-4 win Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum.

But the Leafs certainly looked and sounded like a relieved bunch after they avoided what could have been a devastating defeat. The Leafs, who lost to Montreal at home on Wednesday when they gave up three third period goals in a 5-2 defeat, led 4-2 after two periods but allowed the Islanders to score twice in a span of less than five minutes in the third.

Phaneuf, who beat Evgeni Nabokov from the right side for the game-winner, sighed deeply and bent the brim of his cap as he stepped in front of a group of reporters. Goalie James Reimer, who returned Thursday after missing eight straight games with a knee injury and struggled to find consistency in a 23-save performance, smiled widely at his locker. And coach Randy Carlyle requested a bottle of water before beginning his press conference.

"I wouldn't say relief, but I think it was a big bounce-back game for us," Phaneuf said. "We talk about, when we don't play well, that we want to respond in the right way. And I think we did that tonight."

Phaneuf's goal ensured Nazem Kadri's first career hat trick would not go for naught and gave the Maple Leafs some confidence heading into a rare three-day break before a Monday date at home against the Devils.

"We feel good about ourselves now," Carlyle said. "Now it's time to just go (do) a little exhaling because it's been such a whirlwind ride for us. Now it's time to do some assessments and get ourselves prepared for our next one on Monday."

Toronto has only four three-day breaks left during a schedule that might be the quirkiest in the league. The Leafs' 48-game season includes five different sequences in which they alternate home and road games for at least five games, including a seven-game stretch from Mar. 28 through Apr. 13. They don't have a homestand of more than three games, nor a road trip of longer than three games.

The schedule hasn't bothered the Leafs (13-9-0), who played their NHL-high 13th road game Thursday and improved to 9-4-0 away from Air Canada Centre. Toronto, which has missed the playoffs eight straight years, is just three points behind East leader Montreal.

"The one thing about winning on the road is it breeds confidence in your group," Carlyle said. "You can go into any building, you've got a chance to win. And that's really what we're trying to strive for."

James Van Riemsdyk also scored for the Leafs, but the offensive star for Toronto was Kadri. His first two goals tied the game (at 1-1 and 2-2) while his spectacular third tally capped a three-goal second period flurry by the Leafs, who needed just 5:17 to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead.

On his third goal, Kadri picked up the puck in the Leafs' zone, skated along the right side, threaded his way between Lubomir Visnovsky and Mark Streit and dove as he fired a shot past Evgeni Nabokov.

The hat trick by the 22-year-old Kadri was the first by a Maple Leafs player at Nassau Coliseum since Paul Henderson did it 39 years ago to the day.

"Felt great," Kadri said. "I started to get a little nervous there at the end. (The Islanders are) a push-back team, they never gave up and give them credit. They pushed all the way to the end. But that's a crucial second point that we got."

The Islanders, meanwhile, desperately needed that second point as they try to snap out of an epic slump at the Coliseum. But the home woes and rotten luck continued for the Islanders (8-11-2), who had two goals overturned on review and missed a penalty shot.

A season-low announced crowd of 9,222 turned out to see the Islanders lose their fourth straight home game and fall to an NHL-worst 2-8-1 at the Coliseum. It is the Islanders' worst 11-game start at home since the 1989-90 team opened 1-8-2.

"It felt good to get a point, but obviously we need two points right now," said Islanders winger Kyle Okposo, who scored the game-tying goal 10:08 into the third.

Josh Bailey, Lubomir Visnovsky, Andrew MacDonald all scored their first goals of the season for the Islanders, who are three points out of eighth place in the East. Nabokov made 23 saves.

The Islanders had a goal waved off 1:32 into the second, when John Tavares was called for high sticking when he batted an airborne puck past Reimer.

Another goal was waved off early in the third, when Visnovsky's shot beat Reimer but clanged off the top post, fell in front of the red line and squirmed out of the goalmouth.

In addition, Michael Grabner's penalty shot in the first was high and wide right of the net. Grabner earned the penalty shot when he was tripped from behind by Phil Kessel on a breakaway.

NOTES: Rick DiPietro, the Islanders' one-time franchise goaltender who was assigned to Bridgeport of the AHL after he cleared waivers last weekend, told ESPNNewYork.com Thursday that he wasn't speaking literally when he told a Long Island television station that he would have driven himself "into a tree" if not for the support of his wife the last several years. "I was just trying to draw attention to how important my wife has been to me," DiPietro told the website. DiPietro, who has eight years left on a 15-year, $67.5 million contract, missed 281 games the previous four seasons due to a variety of injuries and went 0-3 this year prior to his demotion. He is scheduled to draw his first start for Bridgeport on Friday night. ... The Leafs scratched defensemen Mike Komisarek and John-Michael Liles and winger Mike Brown while the Islanders scratched center Keith Aucoin, defenseman Radek Martinek and winger David Ullstrom. ... Entering play Thursday, only the Flyers and Stars had played as many road games as the Maple Leafs.
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