The Islanders have the template to succeed. They have the tools, because they've done it enough times this season. They have some character, coming back from a two-goal deficit Thursday night for the third time in the last nine games to gain at least a point.
But there still is something missing. Thursday night, it was the second point, as the Isles dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to the Maple Leafs on Dion Phaneuf's goal 1:11 into OT. After an ugly second-period lull dropped them two goals back, the Islanders pressed and rallied to tie, then nearly won it when Michael Grabner's OT wrister hit the post.
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"We came out and we didn't quit," said Kyle Okposo, who had a pair of assists and the tying goal at 10:08 of the third, his first goal in 19 games. "It felt good to get a point. But we need two now."
Okposo lost Phaneuf along the side wall in OT and the Toronto captain beat Evgeni Nabokov, who made only 23 saves but had eight outstanding stops in a riverboat gambler-type third as the Isles pushed for offense.
The ugly Coliseum record stands at 2-9-1 now. Thursday night's game was played before an announced crowd of only 9,222, the smallest of the season.
"We're not making things easy on ourselves," said Josh Bailey, who was one of three Islanders to score his first of the season. "When we play as well as we do at times, the rest of it is pretty frustrating because we know what we're capable of."
In the third, that was having defensemen jump into the attack to keep the Leafs penned in their own zone. Andrew MacDonald scored his first of the season at 5:31 to make it a one-goal game; Okposo stole the puck at his own blue line and beat James Reimer with a very stoppable shot to forge the tie.
The puzzlement at how the Islanders can be so good and so bad from period to period showed on players' faces after the game. "We got a point, but we're definitely not happy," MacDonald said. "We've had so many opportunities to close out games, to go up in games, and we can't get it done."
As has happened more than a few times this season, the game quickly got away from the Islanders. Toronto scored three times in a 5:17 span of the second period, with Nazem Kadri scoring two of his three goals.
At 8:55, less than three minutes after Lubomir Visnovsky gave the Isles a 2-1 lead with his first in the uniform, Kadri took advantage of a bad line change and charged across the Isles' line, with Mark Streit and Joe Finley giving the Leafs center too much room. His wrist shot glanced off Nabokov's glove and in for a 2-2 tie.
Just 90 seconds later, the Isles were caught in another bad change, unable to get the puck in deep to get a tired forward line off with the longer route to their bench in the second period. James van Riemsdyk collected his own rebound in the slot and beat Nabokov to put the Leafs in front.
Kadri finished his hat trick in grand style, cruising into the Isles' zone, undressing Visnovsky with a move to the net and snapping a shot past Nabokov at 14:12.