BY: Jeff Schneberk @Game7overtime
Phil Kessel picked a really good night, and time, to record his 400th career National Hockey League point. With Leafs up 4-2 in the third and being used to seeing Leaf collapses in the third period, Phil the Thrill lit up the New York defence with the fifth and final goal as the home team finished off the Islanders by a final score of 5-2 at the Air Canada Centre.
They also jumped into third place in the Atlantic Division with 27 points.
Kessel picked the corner on Islander goalie Kevin Poulin not once but twice, and did it from the same wing and nearly hit the exact same spot in the net both times.
He also had given the Leafs a 2-0 lead and the team improves to 13-7-1 and will jump over Detroit in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference and into a tie with second-place Boston who was also in action on Tuesday night with the other New York team, the Rangers.
The other excellent news had that guy who got suspended back in the pre-season, David Clarkson, light the lamp for the first time this season.
#17 INFLUENCES: Wendel Clark was very proud.
“I know how much he has wanted this,” Wendel Clark said after watching Clarkson score his first goal as a Leaf. “He’s been trying so hard. It must be such a relief.
“You know what I like about it too? He went top shelf, right into the corner.”
Clark himself became somewhat famous for his knack for picking corners, almost at will during the 1990s.
Now, here was Clarkson, all these years later, finally getting a monkey off his back that must have felt bigger than King Kong.
That he could do it in front of his friends and family was that much more special. And to have Wendel on hand, well, we’ll let Clarkson himself describe it to you.
“It was cool,” he said.
That’s exactly how the capacity crowd at the Air Canada Centre felt about his accomplishment.
It’s not often that a guy gets a standing ovation for a goal that puts his team up 4-1 with less than 10 minutes remaining in a game.
VIDEO: Here are the highlights: http://t.co/PWAgIhmIc7
But when you are David Clarkson, a local kid who has bled blue and white almost from the day he could clutch a hockey stick, well, finally getting that first delicious goal as a Maple Leaf was worthy of applause from an entire city, let alone the Air Canada Centre.
“It’s not like I was brought here to score 50 goals,” Clarkson said. “My game is from the faceoff circles in. But is it a relief? You bet.
ONE HELL OF A 3rd LINE: The Clarkson-Trevor Smith-Joffrey Lupul line was a force all night. Lupul had three assists while Smith had a goal and two helpers, including one to set up Clarkson. The trio should make things harder for Coach Carlyle to continue juggling the lines. Kadri is expected back from his suspension for tomorrow night’s tilt.
“It’s awesome to see him score,” Smith said. “We’ve been working on plays the past few days. He’s told me where to find him out on the ice.
It will be interesting to see what kind of roster moves lie ahead for the Leafs to make room for the incoming bodies. According to Leafs assistant general manager Claude Loiselle, Smith does need to clear waivers in order to be sent back down to the farm.
In the meantime, the topic in the Leaf dressing room was Clarkson.
“It was great to see (Clarkson) score,” said Phil Kessel, who himself scored twice on this night. “He’s wanted it so bad.”
Wendel Clark could not have said it any better.
Leafs continue to win without centremen Nazem Kadri , Tyler Bozak and David Bolland.
Also in this game, Thomas Vanek did not dress and usual Leaf killer John Tavares was held without a goal.
Kessel had two goals last night, Mason Raymond, Clarkson and Trevor Smith all scored for Toronto who now moves into third place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind Tampa (28) and two under Boston (29). Toronto (27) has a one-point lead over the Penguins.
Next Game: Thursday night vs Nashville, who is playing without goalie Pekka Rinne who is out with a hip injury.