Coming off back-to-back 5-2 wins at Edmonton and Ottawa, the Islanders were outshot, 39-17 and failed to convert six power-plays in a 1-0 loss at Madison Square Garden to the New York Rangers on Monday.
Oleg Kvasha was the only player to attempt more than three shots as the Islanders had their lead cut to five points ahead of the Rangers. They also are five ahead of Montreal and three behind Montreal.
Garth Snow started for the 20th time in 25 games and made 38 saves, but his teammates delivered a disappointing performance en route to their fifth loss in seven games (2-5-0).
“It’s disappointing not to win and get two points because we are in a playoff race with Boston, Montreal and the Rangers,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s not about the Rangers, it’s about us getting points to get us in the playoffs.”
Toronto is fifth in the Eastern Conference with 85 points and is looking to take advantage of the Isles’ post-Ranger hangover, which has seen them go 1-9-2-3 in the last 15 games following contests against its rival.
The Maple Leafs have picked up points in four straight games (2-0-1-1) following a three-game losing streak and are 13-6-1-1 since the All-Star break.
Toronto concluded a three-game road trip with Saturday’s 1-0 win at Vancouver as Ed Belfour made 23 saves en route to his seventh shutout. Belfour has 32 wins and is two shutouts away from tying a career high, which he set with Dallas in 1997-98.
The home team has won both meetings this season. The Islanders posted a 4-2 win on December 6, but Toronto evened the series with a 5-2 win on February 25 as captain Mats Sundin missed a penalty shot, but scored twice.