On the bright side, it’s almost over.
In a game that meant absolutely nothing in the standings, the only thing the Maple Leafs and the Islanders had to play for on Friday was pride. The Maple Leafs, a day removed from clinching a playoff berth, are in tune-up mode, while the Islanders are simply trying to save face as this season slinks out of existence.
So though the points don’t matter, Friday brought its own list of indignities. Though they played well for chunks of the game, the Islanders also weren’t able to hold on to multiple leads.
In the end, they couldn’t equalize the Maple Leafs’ bevy of 30-goal scorers, and they didn’t turn up that defense that has been a liability all season. Instead, they allowed a late goal to Auston Matthews and lost, 5-4, at Barclays Center.
So yes, at least there are only four more of these left.
“You take pride as an athlete,” said John Tavares, who tied the game at 4, giving him his 80th point of the season. “As a competitor you want to go out there and have success and obviously win and (do things) that allow you to come on top. That’s why you go out there and compete. It’s not a whole lot of fun if you’re not doing that.”
William Nylander fed last year’s Calder Trophy winner through the crease, and Matthews’ tip snuck it in past Christopher Gibson for the go-ahead goal with 3:59 left. It was only the second lead for the Maple Leafs in a high-scoring effort. Their first lead came early in the third period, when James van Riemsdyk picked up a blocked shot and scored at 17:59 of the third to put the Maple Leafs up the 4-3.
Tavares managed to even it up a few minutes later. On an Islanders power play, Tavares tipped in a shot on the far side, off the crossbar and in, to tie the game at 4 with 13:32 left. It was the Islanders’ second man-up goal of the game.
“A little bit of puck luck would be nice but it was a helluva game and we felt a little short,” Doug Weight said.
Anthony Beauvillier, Johnny Boychuk and Brock Nelson scored for the Islanders, who led three times in the first and second periods.
Notes & Quotes: Josh Bailey was inactive Friday after a few weeks of unidentified malaise that Weight said he’d been experiencing for a few weeks, but became pronounced during Tuesday’s game in Ottawa and again after Thursday’s practice. The Islanders are classifying it as an upper-body injury, and Bailey saw doctors on Friday. Tanner Fritz played on the first line in his stead.
“He just hasn’t felt himself,” Weight said. “Now, people read into that concussion. Sometimes you have these injuries, your neck or your head or just upper body things that are progressively getting worse and you think they’re not that bad . . . But it’s been an extended period of time. Bails had a really good year. He’s shown up every day and worked and to be completely honest, something is not right and we want to figure it out.”
Bailey joined Jaroslav Halak, who was also unavailable Friday after falling ill. The Islanders played Christopher Gibson, but also activated Thomas Greiss.