Josh Bailey's scoring streak ended, but at least he formally received his wings: See, you haven't officially "made it" to the NHL until Chris Pronger foolishly crosschecks you behind the net, putting your team on the powerplay. Congratulations, Josh.
Unfortunately, additional powerplays didn't matter, because the Islanders couldn't replicate the sweet John Tavares pass to Trent Hunter that created their first and only goal. While the Islanders played very encouraging hockey for two periods, Brian Boucher shut the door and kept them from expanding the lead. (The post also helped, keeping Kyle Okposo in a slump.)
In stark contrast to the Leafs game (which, amusingly, still feels like a "loss" in my head, making this feel like a four-game losing streak), the Isles handily outplayed the Flyers and outshot them 28-17 through two. After a demoralizing tying goal in the final minute of the 2nd -- with the Flyers converting their only powerplay of the night -- the Islanders then got one measly shot in the third.
Scott Hartnell's goal, ramped up over Martin Biron by Brendan Witt's stick, felt inevitable. To have your way with a team for two periods -- getting under the Flyers' skin by playing aggressive, clean hockey -- and only come out of those two periods tied, well that sets up a classic let-down, woe-is-us scenario for the third: "We deserve to be ahead," "goals in the last minute hurt" -- all the hockey cliches are in play with a young team missing its vocal captain Doug Weight.
That said, there were were some positives and negatives. As marveled after Monday's OT win in Toronto: Hockey's a funny game, which is why Dwayne Roloson stole a win from an awful Islanders performance Monday, and Boucher stole a win from two periods of awful Flyers performance Wednesday. So it goes. The third-period letdown was really disappointing, but it felt like only a matter of time before the Flyers woke up and controlled play for a while.
That's not excusing their third period; just an observation that this happens when you have a good team on its heels but don't put them away. Scott Gordon, incidentally, was ticked off -- and distinguished this third-period failure from the other kind we're more familiar with:
"In the first and second periods, we took the ice that was available," Gordon said after watching his team lose its first home game since Nov. 7. "In the third period, the only thing we wanted to do was make plays, and as a result we didn't generate any speed coming into the zone. We were easy to defend against in the defensive zone because there was no element of speed."
Positive: Jon Sim. Credit where credit is due. He did his job, got under the Flyers' (and most importantly, Pronger's) skin with physical play and by setting up shop around their net. He is snake-bitten and unable to finish many choice chances, but I imagine Scott Gordon keeps using him because he creates those and because he can be this kind of pest.
Negative: The PK. Truly, the penalty kill has been great this year -- and overworked. So naturally, what happens on a night where they only have to kill one penalty? Goal. Only two shots on that kill, but the second one counted. Richard Park, Nate Thompson, Andy Sutton and Jack Hillen were out there for the entire kill, and by the end of that long shift they had collapsed too low, allowing the Flyers to set up a bang-bang goal Biron didn't have a chance on.
Positive: Trent Hunter. The only guy better than Bailey at setting up Hunter may be Tavares. That was a beautifully threaded pass, and Hunter got just enough of it to slip it under Boucher. Hunter has played 10 games this year and earned points in 9 of them. Nice to have you back, #7.
Negative: Brendan Witt. Yes, his penalty led to the Flyers goal, but the elbow was a corner-battles type of penalty (that Dan Carcillo milked), and the Flyers were going to get their powerplay some time. Hartnell's goal also deflected off of Witt's stick; since Witt was battling with his own man in front of the net, I won't get on him for that -- just trying to do too much. But it was another game that didn't look good for the veteran. Martin Biron bailed him out with a glove save on a 2-on-1 when Witt coughed the puck up at the Flyers blueline.
Positive: Martin Biron. He did what he could. Twenty-seven saves. The game-winner wasn't his fault on Witt's tip (nor, obviously, was the powerplay goal). As a few pointed out in the game thread, he again didn't get much goal support. On a night when he could have gotten a big win over his former team, the offense fell short and Boucher got the glory.
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Afternoon game tomorrow, which is always scary, the day after a food holiday. Who knows what we'll get and how the Penguins will come out.
Meantime, happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'll be thankful for a fun Islanders season and the fact you all keep returning to this site to talk some hockey. If you're in Canada, well, just go ahead and celebrate Thanksgiving again anyway. We Americans tend to do it by overstuffing ourselves, so you can't go wrong there.