That is what has made his recent strong streak all the more satisfying.
Blake took advantage against his former team Monday, scoring the go-ahead goal late in the second period and setting up two others as the Maple Leafs ended a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Islanders.
With six points in his last three games, he’s showing flashes of the impact player he was given a five-year, $20-million deal to be.
“Obviously every one knows I’m here to provide offense and scoring and it hasn’t come together here,” said Blake, who has five goals and 11 assists this season. “It’s disappointing—believe me, I’m just as disappointed as everybody else. I pride myself on a lot of things and it’s just nice to contribute.”
He certainly did that Monday, combining with Jeremy Williams, called up from the American Hockey League on Sunday to suit up in place of the day-to-day Niklas Hagman, and Dominic Moore to form the contest’s most effective unit.
Blake put the Leafs up for the third time with 1:39 left in the second. He took a brilliant diagonal thread pass from Williams, cut in off the right wing and fired a shot past Joey McDonald’s stick side for a 3-2 edge.
Then, with the Maple Leafs doing something they haven’t done much of lately — protecting a lead in the third period—he found Williams with a crisp cross-ice pass for an easy goal at 8:21 and a 4-2 edge.
That was it for the Isles and the losing streak.
“I thought Jeremy fit in real well,” Blake said. “He’s a very talented kid and he’s got a great shot. The pass that he made to me, that’s just a great pass on his backhand. All night he made smart decisions with the puck.”
Ian White and Nikolai Kulemin also scored for the Maple Leafs, who dominated play but were forced to protect slim leads most of the night because of the strong play of Islanders goalie Joey McDonald and two fluky goals against Vesa Toskala.
McDonald, making his 17th straight start, stopped 33 shots and was perhaps the only bright spot for New York, which lost for the fifth time in six games.
“Give them credit,” Islanders forward Doug Weight said. “It was two teams that needed the win and we didn’t come out and play that way early.”
Leafs coach Ron Wilson hinted that Williams may have played his way into at least another game, even if Hagman (concussion) is ready to go Friday at Buffalo. Williams has been called up from the minors four times and has scored in his first game each time.
“I guess he’s done this a few times in the past, had a good first game,” Wilson said. “Now the big thing for him is not to let it get to his head and keep doing the things he was doing tonight.”
Toskala finished with 26 saves—13 in the third period when he made the slim lead stand up. The Leafs’ first two leads didn’t last very long.
Sillinger tipped in a previously deflected point shot past Toskala for first of season at 16:07, just over 3 minutes after White fired home Stralman’s feed from the point on a power play at 12:56.
In the first, Kulemin opened the scoring 4 minutes in when he came off the bench on a line change, skated into the slot and slipped Alexei Ponikarovsky’s pass by McDonald.
Kulemin’s goal gave the Maple Leafs an 8-0 edge in shots, but the Islanders answered just 12 seconds later as Guerin tipped Freddy Meyer’s dribbling point shot past a stunned Toskala.
Leafs rookie D Luke Schenn (lower body) and Niklas Hagman (concussion) sat out with injuries they sustained in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Washington. D Jamie Sifers, making his NHL debut, and Williams, in his first NHL action this season, took their place. … Williams’ assist was his first in the NHL. He had four goals in his first 20 NHL games. … Doug Weight’s assist on Guerin’s first-period goal leaves him six points shy of the 1,000 mark in his career.