Belfour looks to lead the Maple Leafs to their fourth straight win and first of the season against the Buffalo Sabres when the Northeast Division rivals meet at Air Canada Centre.
“To be able to put on the Leaf jersey was quite a feeling,” said Leetch, a two-time Norris Trophy winner who had spent his entire 17-year career with the Rangers. “Everything went well right off the bat. To get that lead made it a lot easier for me. The goal was to get through the day. This team has been winning without me and the pressure is not to disrupt things.”
Bryan McCabe benefited from having Leetch as his defense partner, finishing with two goals and an assist.
“It’s hard not to click with a guy like that,” McCabe said. “You just give him the puck and let him go.”
Belfour held the Islanders scoreless before allowing a pair of power-play goals late in the third period.
He has stopped 52 of 56 shots in three straight wins after missing 11 of 12 games with a back injury. Toronto was 4-6-1 without its No. 1 goaltender.
The Leafs held a 3-0 lead after the first period Thursday, outshooting the Islanders 9-2. Toronto has outshot its last three opponents 43-12 in the opening 20 minutes.
While Toronto is battling several teams for first place in the Eastern Conference, Buffalo is hoping to make up ground on the struggling Islanders for the final playoff berth.
Chris Drury scored twice and Miroslav Satan snapped a third-period tie as the Sabres ended a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over Ottawa on Wednesday in the finale of a home-and-home series.
The goal was the team-leading 25th of the season for Satan, whose name continues to come up in rumors with Tuesday’s trade deadline fast approaching.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Satan said, adding that he hasn’t asked to be traded. “They’ll probably try to do something so, whatever.”
Sabres general manager Darcy Regier didn’t completely dismiss the idea of dealing Satan.
“There just isn’t anything imminent. When we get closer to the deadline, we’ll see,” Regier said.
Buffalo is tied with Florida for ninth in the East—eight points behind the Islanders.
STANDINGS (through March 4): Sabres - 65 points, 5th place, 21 PB, Northeast Division. Maple Leafs - 86 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 4): Sabres - Power play: 15.9 percent (45 for 283), 17th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.6 percent (242 for 286), 10th. Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.0 percent (64 for 320), 5th. Penalty killing: 84.4 percent (271 for 321), 13th.
SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 2-0-1.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 14; Sabres, 6-4. At Toronto, J.P. Dumont scored one goal and set up three others, helping Buffalo rally from a three-goal deficit.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 11-19-2-0 on the road; Maple Leafs - 19-10-2-2 at home.