The New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers played an entertaining, back-and-forth, coach's headache kind of rivalry game Saturday night, but the Flyers came out on top, 5-2, by striking early and never making enough mistakes to cough up the lead.
It was the first time all season the Flyers managed to score more than two goals in a game, and the Isles -- who handed the first-place Penguins just their second loss the night before -- experienced the indignity of conceding the last-place Flyers' just their third win on the year.
Things got off on the wrong foot early when Sean Couturier made a nice move around Andrew MacDonald and MacDonald was penalized for lifting Couturier's stick. Then the Flyers' league-worst power play naturally converted immediately against the Islanders' hot penalty kill, which was ranked fourth heading into the game. Ex-Isle Mark Streit assisted, because of course.
That goal at 4:30 came at the hands of Vincent Lecavalier, who finished a hat trick with a nice second effort in the third period. Just a minute after Lecavalier's first, Jakub Voracek scored --their goals came on the first two shots that Kevin Poulin faced -- to make it 2-0 and confirm that the Isles would have to chase the game all night.
They conducted that chase alright, creating enough chances to have a better fate but ultimately trading chances too often with the Flyers. The Isles' chances included three power play opportunities where they moved the puck well but could not beat Steve Mason.
Lecavalier's backbreaker in the third took advantage of Matt Donovan and Thomas Hickey -- who otherwise had another very strong game -- and basically ended any comeback hopes. Matt Read's empty netter completed the scoring.
- Down 3-1 after the first period, the Islanders' second period left something to be desired. They let themselves get outshot 12-5 in the frame, and Poulin's saves were part of the reason the Isles had cut that deficit in half by the second intermission.
- That said, tough to read too much into Poulin's night, playing as he was with so much time in between game action. Made some good saves, but also had happy feet on multiple opportunities that the Flyers failed to get on goal.
- How did they cut the deficit? Through a shorthanded goal via an entertaining combination of Danish backhands. Frans NIelsen intercepted Voracek's risky pass in the Isles zone, led Peter Regin on a breakout with a backhand pass, accepted Regin's rather ill-advised backhand pass behind him across the slot, then lofted a backhand from distance that fooled Mason.
- Eric Boulton and Jay Rosehill were in the lineup to find each other, and they did so early. Their first-period fight [video here] was a good long one with some classic wild swings rather than the careful tactical approach you often see from today's fighters.
- Donovan was victimized or partially responsible for some goals against again tonight. That happens to all the Isles defensemen so we're not here to pile on the rookie, but it is clear his D game still requires some work.
- On that note, though Lecavalier's third goal came after Hickey's attempt to keep it in the zone was blocked, Hickey was active all over the place and successful in using his body and puck-handling to help the Isles elude trouble and start the breakout. His assist on Kyle Okposo's goal was an example of insightful passing and great positioning. If Donovan's game ever matures to match Hickey's, the Isles will be in good shape with those two.
- John Tavares extended his point streak, but it has to be the quietest 10-game point streak I can recall. He's been good enough to get points here and there, but dominant for lengthy stretches like we have come to expect.
- In his return from a two-game suspension, Michael Grabner resumed generating threats and troubling defensemen via his sheer speed. These things make even losses entertaining.
- Have to say Steve Mason was good. Not tested massively among the Isles' 28 shots, but he robbed a few shooters, including a different Nielsen backhand. The Flyers also helped Mason in blocking 18 shots.
- A night after playing a full 30 minutes and making life miserable for Evgeni Malkin, Travis Hamonic (and Andrew MacDonald) played a more humane 26:40 each.
- Cal Clutterbuck and Zac Rinaldo each made themselves felt by throwing hits around the rink. Rinaldo later left the game after taking a Braydon Coburn shot to the head. (Rinaldo returned for two shifts in the third period, because he's a hockey player, and because his brain isn't key to whatever it is he does on the ice.)
So the Islanders stopped a division stalwart on the road last night, then helped get the division doormat off the floor at home tonight. That's how it's going these days, and that's why the Isles are treading water at 4-4-3. In any other division this year, that would have them in an ugly position. In the Metro, their neighbors have combined to ensure they haven't fallen too far off the pace.
But it would be nice to, you know, pick up the pace and string consecutive wins together one of these nights.
More from Lighthouse Hockey:
- Fight: Eric Boulton vs. Jay Rosehill in Lengthy Retro-Style Swingfest
- Rick DiPietro Signs with Carolina (Well, their AHL Checkers. On a PTO.)
- New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers: Mark Streit returns, Michael Grabner resumes
- Streit as an Arrow: Ex-Islanders Captain Returns as a Flyer
- [Bits] Don't Think. Just Do.