I'm going to try not to stew too much over this one because, in contrast to other recent losses, the Islanders actually exhibited 40 minutes of the approach it would take to win against an opponent that's had their number for 15 games now. They weathered the storm early, diffused the Flyers' size advantage, and could count on the line of Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey to dictate play ever couple of minutes.
Unfortunately, a run of third-period penalties sabotaged what they'd built, and that was that. Trevor Gillies' late hit on Scott Hartnell was the backbreaker -- that penalty led to Simon Gagne's game-winning goal with 6:06 left -- but the third-period funk was a team effort, sealed by killing off just one of the three Flyers powerplays.
Of greater concern was the loss of Rob Schremp Hockey to a knee injury after just four shifts. All told, the Islanders did pretty well after losing an increasingly important center, but that's a tough blow and hopefully it doesn't botch the rest of his season, since the rest of the season is pretty much about evaluating what's here anyway. Strang tweeted that he'll be evaluated Wednesday.
Of nearly greater importance was John Tavares finally breaking his goal slump. And wouldn't you know it? He did it from the same spot where he's scored his previous goals against the Flyers this year: Sneaking in for a tap-in on the left doorstep. The look of relief on JT's face was almost worth admission ... and the painful third.
Evidence of a Brief Chance at a Win
Bits and Morsels
- Boarding penalty aside, Jeff Carter goal aside (is that too many asides?), Mark Streit had a pretty nice game in 26:04 of ice time. Or at least, if the Islanders were going to extend the lead or come back, it was pretty clear it would come from his quarterbacking the play back there. His performance allowed Bruno Gervais to have a two-assist game, too.
- Speaking of Gervais, that was one sweet puck retrieval and rush out of his own zone to outlet Josh Bailey, who sent Kyle Okposo over the blueline for a ping-perfect shot for the Islanders' second goal. That's the way they drew it up. Two times on that play I thought Gervais was about to get his clock cleaned, but he proved elusive and single-handedly broke apart the Flyers forecheck. Maybe if the Islanders hold the 2-0 lead to the 2nd intermission, the game turns out differently.
- Jack Hillen looked the best he's looked since returning from the Ovechkin slapper to the jaw. I don't know if he's adjusting to the face shield now or if he's just gained his weight and legs back, but he was showing the rushing speed that will be key to him excelling as an NHLer. Brian Rafalski is an unfair standard to place on the sophomore, but you can see where Hillen could get by in the NHL despite his size.
- Bailey/Nielsen/Okposo: I mean that's just a line of good, smart young hockey players, isn't it? The majority of their shifts were against much-heralded Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, and they fared well. Add one more first-round caliber forward to the mix and ... okay, we don't need to go there just yet.
- Most disappointing goal? The Islanders getting a much needed clear on the PK, only to allow Claude Giroux to waltz in between Sean Bergenheim and Hillen to accept the pass and lift a nifty backhand over Roloson. Bergenheim also picked up a high-sticking penalty on the play.
Dwayne Roloson, by the way, made some big saves among his 32 and can't be terribly faulted on any of the three goals. But ... Scott Gordon did tell Mark Herrmann he'd go with the hot hand here on out, right? Does Martin Biron get a turn? Just curious.
- Gillies got 7:48 of ice time, which is WAY over my over/under of 4:00. But in my defense, Rob Schremp Hockey's early departure changed the ice shares a bit.
- As tossed around at the end of the game thread, this was the 11th one-goal loss in regulation (that total is greater if you add games where an empty-net goal was conceded). Nothing to do but hope it's a young team that still has some learning to do. Certainly tonight, that was the diagnosis.
- Really? Versus has a "Jack Daniels Goal Cam"?! There's something so stupid and so awesome about that all at once.
If You Didn't Get the Memo
The Islanders now have 60 points after 66 games. Achieving 88 points -- arguably the minimum that an Eastern 8th seed might need, would take a 14-2 run. The lottery watch is and has been so on.