UNIONDALE, NEW YORK (TICKER) —The New York Islanders’ inability to win at home brought a collective sigh of relief from their crosstown rivals.
With a six-point lead over the New York Rangers for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders could have all but ended their bitter rivals’ postseason hopes.
But goaltender Garth Snow surrendered two first-period goals on just six shots, putting his team in an early hole, and allowed a backbreaking tally by former Islander Robert Reichel midway through the third to give New York its fourth consecutive loss at Nassau Coliseum.
“I made some big saves, but we have to play for a full 60 minutes,” Snow said. “You can’t be sloppy at this point.”
Tomas Kaberle had a power-play goal and fellow defenseman Robert Svehla added two assists for the Maple Leafs, who pulled within five points of fourth-place Philadelphia for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“I thought we played hard as a team tonight,” Sundin said. “Those are two more points, but we had to battle for them.”
“The Islanders looked pretty good, they showed some skills,” Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. “But those power-play goals made a difference in the game. We did what we had to do to win the game.”
Ed Belfour turned aside 37 shots to move within two wins of becoming the seventh goaltender in NHL history to record 400 victories.
“We had to work for it,” Belfour said. “They were rushing the net pretty hard. But I take pride in coming up with the big save.”
Mogilny gave Toronto the lead just 2:32 into the game, sneaking past Hamrlik in the slot and getting a pass from defenseman Aki Berg before beating Snow for his second goal in as many games.
Sundin climbed another step on the Maple Leafs’ all-time goal-scoring list, putting a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle past Snow low to the stick side while on the power play at 8:08.
The tally was Sundin’s 297th as a Leaf, moving him past Frank Mahovlich and George Armstrong for fifth place on the club’s list. It was also the Toronto captain’s fourth goal in five games.
“The start wasn’t the way we wanted,” Islanders defenseman Janne Niinimaa said. “Snow made some good saves, but they kept the lead. But I am happy with the effort.”
Coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t so happy.
“It’s an opportunity lost for two points,” he said. “That’s what’s disappointing because we didn’t score. The power play probably had 10 to 12 chances, but we couldn’t get it to the back of the net.”
Hamrlik atoned for his mistake 86 seconds later, taking a feed from Mark Parrish behind the net and banking a shot from the low slot off Belfour’s left shoulder into the top right corner.
Kaberle regained Toronto’s two-goal cushion at 4:51 of the second, wristing a shot from the left circle over Snow’s right shoulder for a power-play tally. But Webb answered less than four minutes later, stuffing a loose puck past Belfour for his first point of the season and first goal since October 28, 2001.
With the help of the right goalpost, Reichel netted his first goal in over a month with a shot from the left circle, and Mogilny added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the victory for the Leafs.
But the news was not all good for Toronto, as it lost the services of right wing Owen Nolan after two periods due to an upper body injury. Nolan joins Doug Gilmour and defensemen Phil Housley and Glen Wesley as trade deadline acquisitions on the sidelines for the Maple Leafs.
“Owen and the trainer made the decision (to sit out the third),” Quinn said. “Owen knows his back better than anybody. It’s not the time to take gambles.”