Phil Kessel's Late-Game Heroics Leads Leafs Past Islanders

Dustin PollackContributor IFebruary 23, 2011

TORONTO, CAN - FEBRUARY 7:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates in a game against the Atlanta Thrashers on February 7, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Thrashers 5-4. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

He’s been criticized, condemned and analyzed, but tonight, Phil Kessel did his duty and scored a goal late in the third period to put the Toronto Maple Leafs past the New York Islanders 2-1.

For Kessel, the goal marked his 23rd of the season, and for the Leafs, the win keeps the playoff dream alive moving them back within six points of the eighth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes.

“Obviously, I’ve had my chances here, but fortunately, I was able to go end to end,” said Phil Kessel in his post game comments to the Toronto Star.

But of course, Kessel wasn’t the only reason the Leafs were able to put away the Islanders who going into tonight had won six of their last seven games. James Reimer once again stood on his head making 28 saves.

“Honestly, I was feeling pretty sick during the first period and start of the second too,” Reimer told the Canadian Press. “I wasn't feeling very good. It was a mental battle out there, just trying to be conservative and not do too much so I wouldn't ralph all over the ice.”

One of the Toronto Maple Leafs' biggest problems this season has been their inability to finish off games. This past Saturday, the Leafs fired 47 shots at Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson only to lose 1-0 in a shootout, and earlier in the season, the Leafs fired 36 shots on Washington Captials third string goaltender Braden Holtby and were only able to put one goal by him.

MacArthur Sets New High

Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur set a new career high with his 18th goal of the season—one that opened the scoring 10:13 into the first period.

MacArthur’s name has been thrown around the Toronto media circle often as of late as the 26-year-old is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of this season. It’s been reported that Leafs general manager Brian Burke is set to meet with MacArthur’s agent Don Meehan this week to discuss a contract extension.

“If he doesn’t agree to something that makes sense, then we’re going to listen [to offers],” Burke told Toronto media on Monday. “It’s not a guarantee that he’s not going to be here, but we’re certainly going to listen.”

The Leafs take Wednesday off before heading on the road to take on the Montreal Canadiens Thursday.

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