With just its second victory in their last six contests, Toronto tied the eighth-place Washington Capitals with 43 points, but still remain on the outside looking in regarding the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The loss snapped a three-game Islanders winning streak, and leaves New York just a point ahead of the Buffalo Sabres, who sit in the 15th spot in the East.
The Leafs wasted little time in jumping out to a lead in the opening period. Defenseman Jake Gardiner carried the puck through center ice and into the New York zone along the left wing side, then dropped a pass back to Lombardi at the left point. The center moved to the top of the left faceoff circle and launched a slap shot in on Islanders' netminder Evgeni Nabokov. The puck bounced off several bodies in front of the net before defenseman Mark Streit accidentally tapped the puck into his own net. Lombardi got credit for his fifth goal of the season and Toronto took a 1-0 lead just 1:37 into the first period.
Both goaltenders played well, but it was Nabokov who kept his team in the game. The Maple Leafs outshot the Isles by a 24-11 count through the first two periods -- including 16-5 in the first frame alone -- and the score remained 1-0 well into the third period.
As the final stanza approached the midway point, Toronto's top two scorers combined to double the home team's lead. Winger Joffrey Lupul carried the puck along the right wing side and sent a pass from the right hash marks across the crease. The puck bounced off Nabokov's pad and right onto the stick of Leafs' leading goal scorer Phil Kessel, who promptly snapped a shot past the New York goalie on the short side and into the net. It was Kessel's 26th goal of the year, tying him with the Pittsburgh Penguins duo of Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, and increased Toronto's margin to 2-0 at 8:10 of the third.
The Maple Leafs outhustled the Islanders to get another bit of insurance late in regulation. Mikhail Grabovski's dash to beat Milan Jurcina to the puck caused Nabokov to come out of the net and sent a poke check to the left wing corner. Joey Crabb provided excellent puck support and gathered the disc, then sent a cross-ice pass to Lombardi, who was streaking in along the right wing side. Lombardi beat Nabokov to put the final nail in the Isles coffin with his second goal of the game and sixth of the season with just 3:39 left on the third period clock.
Gustavsson shut the door the rest of the way, as New York pressed with its toughest offensive push during the third frame, outshooting the Leafs, 14-11. It was the third shutout of the year for "The Monster" as he ran his record to 15-10-0. Nabokov made 32 saves, but dropped to 10-12-0.
The shutout brought Islanders' star John Tavares' 12-game point streak to an end, a stretch which saw the first overall selection in the 2009 entry draft score eight goals and register 21 points.