Apr 25, 2002
Some playoff series this year are rooted in history. Boston and Montreal have faced each other more times than any other teams in the NHL. Ottawa and Philadelphia have never faced each other in the playoffs. Toronto and New York last faced each other 21 years ago, but they just missed each other 9 years ago.
Toronto, then in the Western Conference, lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the conference finals. The Islanders, also in the conference finals, lost to the eventual champions, the Montreal Canadiens. A few goals either way, and this rivalry in the making could have been even more intense.
After losing two sloppy games in Toronto, the Islanders went for their secret weapon... a very secret weapon. Steve Webb, averaging less than seven minutes a game got so far under the Leafs' collective skin that Liposuction couldn't have gotten him out. The impetus for the Islanders drew a number of penalties of the retaliatory variety. The Islanders would score four powerplay goals en route to a 6 to 1 drubbing.
The first two games were battled in the trenches. Technically, that should have made it no surprise when veteran trench warrior Tie Domi, playing without a doubt the best hockey of his career scored the game winner in game one. Alyn McAuley, learning to find a niche as a great penalty killing forward netted the game winner in game two.
After the first two games, Islanders General Manager Mike Milbury used an obscenity-laced tirade (26 F-words in just over 8 minutes) s a soundtrack to a video featuring a group of scandalous non-calls of infractions by both teams. The truth is Milbury was ight, but he didn't have much to worry about. The Leaf powerplay has a single goal in all four games. The Isles powerplay has clicked six times.
Game four finally saw the series have some flow in it. A few minutes prior to gametime, Leafs Captain Mats Sundin took himself out of the lineup. Sundin, who had three points in the three previous games had what coach and GM Pat Quinn called an 'upper torso' injury. However, it looks like the man tied for second in goals and game winning goals during the regular season may have a hairline fracture in his left hand. He was spotted leaving the arena with a heavily bandaged left hand.
Forcing the Leafs to play as a team, they managed to play a strong road game going into the third period leading 2-1. The Islanders managed two goals less than two minutes apart, the second, a blueline slap shot from Roman Hamrlik that beat Joseph cleanly (luckily, Joseph, who has suddenly developed a penchant for playoff goals, is not making 9 million dollars this year). Shayne Corson tied the game on a wraparound that had Chris Osgood looking the other way.
With 2:30 left, next came one of the most controversial call in recent Leafs history, right up there with Kerry Fraser's noncall on Wayne Gretzky's carving up Doug Gilmour's face in 1993. Shawn Bates, a step ahead of Bryan McCabe and cutting in off the wing was taken down by the sprawling Leaf defenseman. Referee Brad Watson first signaled a penalty, then pointed to centre ice, giving Bates a penalty shot.
Bates cashed in, beating Joseph high to the blocker side... the same place where Hamrlik's shot went through CuJo. A late call on Islander defenseman Kenny Jonnson (perhaps to make up for the call against the Leafs) along with Joseph put the Leafs at a 6 on 4 advantage for the final minute. They were unable to cash in, and now the series comes back to Toronto, with the Islanders in charge of the momentum.
Notes: Gary Roberts leads the series in hits with 19, Bryan McCabe is second with 18, Steve Webb, averaging almost a full period of ice time less then those two is third with 17...Alexei Yashin has finally figured out where the back of the net is in the playoffs is. He leads the series with 5 points...Plus/Minus is a statistic mainly used in 5-on-5 hockey, only two Islanders players are better than even... Steve Webb leads the team with a +2. Only four Leafs are under even, and they all have a -1.
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