Leafs get it together

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

Following the morning skate yesterday, Maple Leafs winger Jason Blake was asked if he should have left the New York Islanders in the summer of 2007 to sign with Toronto.

"I can't answer that," Blake said, perhaps only half-joking.

But if Blake, who has been frustrated more often than not since he signed a hefty contract with the Leafs, really had a soft spot for the Islanders, he might not have been so happy to beat up on them last night.

Blake had three points for the second time in three games, earning first-star honours as the Leafs beat the Islanders 4-2 at the Air Canada Centre.

Blake and Jeremy Williams, called up to replace the concussed Niklas Hagman, clicked instantly on a line with Dominic Moore. In one of those statistical oddities that has no proper explanation, Williams, for the fourth time as a Leaf, scored in his first game after being summoned from the minors. He also had an assist on Blake's game-winning goal, his first helper in the NHL.

There's no guarantee that Williams will be around for the long haul -- nor, for that matter, that Blake will be either -- but the Leafs need Blake to produce something if they're going to win hockey games. The victory was just their fifth in 17 games since Nov. 1, the night they had a stirring third-period comeback against the New York Rangers.

"I don't like to jump too far ahead," Blake said when asked whether he has started to turn the corner offensively. "I haven't been on the power play but lately I have been a bit.

"Everyone knows I am here to provide offence and it has not come together. It's disappointing and I'm as disappointed as anyone else. It's just nice to contribute. I think (his game as a whole) is slowly coming."

Coach Ron Wilson said the 24-year-old Williams has earned another look.

That would be in the Leafs' next game on Friday night in Buffalo against the Sabres, whether Hagman is ready or not.

"Things went really well," Williams said. "I would rather just stay here, but we will see what happens."

Blake and Williams aside, thank goodness the NHL does not give points for style. Commissioner Gary Bettman might have called the ACC and instructed the Leafs and Islanders to gather their belongings and go quietly into the night.

The Islanders don't seem to know whether they're rebuilding or going with a bunch of old guys, and because of the oil-and-water mix, are not good. Goalie Joey MacDonald has done all right in place of Rick DiPietro, who is recovering from knee surgery, and kept his team around in the early stages. The Leafs are not great by any stretch, but you don't have to be to beat the once-proud Islanders.

Nikolai Kulemin scored four minutes into the game but Bill Guerin got it back 12 seconds later. Ian White and Mike Sillinger traded goals in the second period before Blake got the deciding goal after taking a pass from Williams, skirting around Isles defenceman Chris Campoli and sliding the puck past MacDonald on the far side at 18:21 of the second.

Vesa Toskala made 26 saves. MacDonald stopped 33 shots.

Blake, in the second year of a five-year, $20-million US contract, knows that some think the team would be better off without him.

"That's not my decision to make," Blake said. "Whatever (Leafs general manager Brian Burke) feels is best is what they will do."


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