Game Leafs look to end trend of lost leads, face Islanders next

Game Leafs look to end trend of lost leads, face Islanders next

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The Toronto Maple Leafs hope to not only take a lead, but hold it, when they complete a six-game road trip Saturday night in Elmont, N.Y., against the New York Islanders.

The Maple Leafs took a 3-1 lead in the first period Wednesday night but lost 6-3 to the New York Rangers.

It has been a recent trend for the Maple Leafs, although a loss was not always a result.

“Each game has been different, so it’s hard to talk about patterns other than the obvious in that we’ve been giving up leads,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said after the loss to the Rangers. “But I just thought we got exposed today for being a team that was soft and purposeless and just playing the game and just hoping it was going to work out.”

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Toronto will be catching the Islanders on the second half of back-to-back games. The Islanders had no trouble holding the lead Friday night in defeating the visiting Arizona Coyotes 4-0. Ilya Sorokin stopped 17 shots to earn his fourth shutout of the season.

The Maple Leafs’ tendency to squander leads started with the first game of the trip, when they wasted a 4-1 advantage against the Colorado Avalanche and lost 5-4 in overtime on Jan. 8.

They blew a 3-1 lead against the Vegas Golden Knights but won 4-3 in a shootout. After losing 2-1 to Arizona, the Maple Leafs led the St. Louis Blues 3-1 and 4-3, and trailed 5-4, before winning 6-5.

But the game loss to the Rangers particularly upset Keefe.

“In the previous games, I thought it was different,” he said. “Today I just thought we played soft and we made poor decisions defensively and we couldn’t sort anything out.”

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Goaltender Jack Campbell has allowed 18 goals in his past four starts.

“He’s not playing at the same level,” Keefe said. “But we didn’t play well enough as a team (in front of him). … We can’t defend the way we defended and give them clean looks at the net. This one should bother us greatly because how we played wasn’t good enough.”

Backup Petr Mrazek will be in goal Saturday in what Keefe said was “a scheduled start.”

Auston Matthews had his road scoring streak end at 10 games on Wednesday, a team record, and one road game short of the league record set by Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings in 1988-89 and matched by Pavel Bure of the Vancouver Canucks in 1993-94.

John Tavares and William Nylander are struggling with two points each in the past five games for Toronto.

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In winning their third straight game Friday, the Islanders held the Coyotes to four shots on goal in the third period.

“That’s what we want to do. Everyone knows the style of hockey we play,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s a good sign when that’s happening, and we’ve been able to put it together here for a little bit. Things seem like they’re coming together better. We want to be stingy in our end and push the pace going forward.”

The Islanders are on an 8-2-1 roll, and their next six games are at home.

Brock Nelson scored two goals for the Islanders on Friday. The Islanders lost 3-0 to the visiting Maple Leafs on Nov. 21.

–Field Level Media

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