NHL: Maple Leafs open homestand against struggling Islanders

After losing to the archrival Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs will open a five-game homestand Monday night against the struggling New York Islanders.

The Maple Leafs lost 3-2 in overtime at Montreal on Saturday. The Islanders also lost Saturday, 5-2 to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.

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Toronto wasted a 2-0 first-period lead against the Canadiens, a team that has been hit by injuries and is struggling in the standings.

“We know they’ll play hard regardless of standings and it’s a rivalry that’s been around for years,” said Auston Matthews, who had an assist for Toronto. “We have to expect their best every time.

“We took our foot off the gas in the second period and opened the door for them to make it a one-goal game and then obviously tie it up. Obviously, that’s a little bit disappointing.”

Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said Montreal’s Bell Centre made for “a fast, competitive game in as loud an environment as we’ve played.”

He will be looking for more 60-minute efforts during the homestand after the Leafs lost for the third time in five games.

“We just let up just a little bit, lose the puck battle and the puck ends up in the net,” Keefe said. “You can see and feel the game changing.”

The Islanders are 2-5-3 in their past 10 games and announced before the loss to Carolina that Cal Clutterbuck (upper-body injury) would be out indefinitely. He was injured during the second period in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.

Aatu Raty was called up to take his place and played with Ross Johnston and Matt Martin on his wings.

Clutterbuck plays a physical style.

“It’s tough,” Martin said. “I think a lot of guys in here sacrifice their bodies, come playing banged up, whatever it is. Injuries are a part of the game, unfortunately. Hopefully we’ll have some reinforcements here soon with a few of the guys that have been out for a while and get back on track that way.”

Adam Pelech, Kyle Palmieri and Hudson Fasching continue to be listed as day-to-day by the Islanders.

“I think we still have a confident group,” said Brock Nelson, who scored a goal for the Islanders on Saturday. “I still think we all believe in here and know we can get the job done.”

Coach Lane Lambert admitted that the coaching staff should take some of the blame for the Islanders’ struggles.

“I think everything that happens within the game, whether it be five-on-five, whether it be offensively, whether it be power play, whether it be penalty kill, that all falls on the coaching staff at some point in one way, shape or form,” Lambert said. “There’s no question that everyone looks in the mirror, myself included.”

“I think you have to stay positive,” Islanders right winger Josh Bailey said. “I think it still hurts, we’re competitive, we want to win and really that’s where we’re at right now. We have to find a way to win.”

–Field Level Media

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