Isles Bow Out in Seven
Bitter series ends with pure hockey and a Leafs win
By Alan Hahn
May 1, 2002
Toronto - In the bitter end, when sticks stayed down, gloves stayed
on and hits stayed clean, experience and sheer determination won out -
if barely - over youth and raw exuberance. The slugfest of a first-
round series finally came down to not who wasn't on the ice, but who
was. In last night's Game 7, when it mattered most, those on the ice
for the Leafs were simply better.
Despite a furious third-period effort that pushed this matchup to
practically the final seconds, the Islanders lost to the Maple Leafs,
4-2, to close out this drama-filled series and the feel-good story
that was the result of this Islanders season of rejuvenation.
Alexander Mogilny, the last remaining top-line player in the series
for Toronto, led the way with two goals, including the clinching
empty-netter with 40 seconds left in regulation.
Gary Roberts, a marked man for his devastating hit from behind that
knocked Kenny Jonsson out of the series in Game 5, set the tone by
playing like a torpedo at the Islanders net, causing goalie Chris
Osgood to also limp away from this brutal series. The Islanders
couldn't hold an early lead and, during a pivotal second period,
couldn't match the intensity of their playoff-tested opponents.
"Experience is one of those excuses," said Islanders iron-man
defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who last night played 37:42, had an assist
and finished the series with seven points. "They played hard and we
The Leafs completed the home-success trend in the series with their
fourth win at Air Canada Centre. They advance to the Eastern
Conference semifinals and will host the Ottawa Senators tomorrow
night in Game 1.
The Islanders, who made their first postseason appearance in eight
years, will go home with a bittersweet emotion. Many observers from
around the league considered this series a resounding comeback for
the once-downtrodden franchise.
"We didn't make the playoffs just to make them and gain experience
like everyone else wanted us to do," rookie coach Peter Laviolette
said. "Our goals were higher than that. Internally, I think we all
thought that we could win the Stanley Cup."
The Leafs, who advance as favorites in a topsy-turvy Eastern
Conference, expressed relief to escape the Islanders.
"I've been around this game for a long time and that was as tough,
mean and dirty - whatever you want to call it - a series as I've seen
in a long time," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "They kept coming at
us. It was almost like last man standing."
In the end, the last man standing was goalie Curtis Joseph, who held
off a late barrage with several huge stops to rescue a shaky Leafs
defense as it clung to a 3-2 lead. His biggest save came midway
through the period against Alexei Yashin, who broke in up the right
side and fired a shot to the far post that Joseph managed to tip away
with his blocker.
"It seemed like it was going in the net," Yashin said.
Then Yashin attempted a bank shot from behind the net with Joseph out
of his crease. The puck deflected off the goalie but flew across the
goal mouth. Rookie Trent Hunter, who seemed to get better with each
shift he played in this series, had a great chance as he cut to the
slot but fired his shot into Joseph's gut.
"It was great," Joseph said. "A great club with a great power play.
We battled every inch of the way to get what we got tonight. It was a
struggle to the very end."
It was a struggle for the Islanders, as well. In almost exact fashion
as Game 1 here two weeks ago, they managed to take an early 1-0 lead
off a power- play goal. Yashin, because of the suspension of Shayne
Corson, didn't have a physical shadow to contend with, and scored at
3:41 of the first.
But just when the Islanders thought they had the Leafs on their
heels, and the Toronto crowd out of the game, Roberts stepped up his
The gritty veteran picked a bouncing puck out of the skates of
Mariusz Czerkawski, drove hard to the net and practically ran over
Osgood to even the score at 1 at 13:27 of the period. Osgood was
shaken up on the play but remained in the game and made several big
saves later in the period to keep the score tied.
A defensive breakdown early in the second gave Toronto a 2-1 lead,
when Darcy Tucker slipped a cross-ice pass to Robert Reichel, who fed
Mogilny alone in the high slot for a goal at 2:37. The lead was
extended to 3-1 at 13:48 of the second when Travis Green took
advantage of more soft defense and whipped a shot past Osgood, who
was deep in his net.
The third period revealed a lot of fight from the desperate Islanders
and Kip Miller finally put one past Joseph at 4:23 to make it
interesting at 3-2. Miller, who wound up leading the Islanders in
goals in the series with 4, beat Joseph with a similar shot to his
Game 6 goal: short side high. The mad dash to the finish was an
emotional roller-coaster and one that ended in heartbreak for the
It also ended with the traditional handshake. The battle-weary teams
lined up to offer their respects to each other. That's when another
series villain, Tucker, patted Steve Webb on the shoulder and offered
him some words of encouragement.
"Good series," he said. "You made a name for yourself." Indeed, said
Webb, the Islanders did.
MAPLE LEAFS 4