We should have expected this and certainly feared this: The New York Islanders came out lacking intensity against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first period of their first post-playoff clinching game.
After conceding first, the Isles got the 1-1 equalizer (John Tavares on a nice zone entry and Matt Carkner follow-up) early in the second period and started to take a little more control over the game. But opportunities were missed, chances exchanged, clearances muffed, and it was the Flyers that got the next goal with just 6:31 left in regulation.
Facing their first regulation loss in April (again), the Isles pressed but could not pull off another late equalizer. The Flyers held on -- icing and icing and icing again -- to defeat the Isles 2-1 and yank control of the playoff seeding from the Islanders' previously sure hands.
The winning goal befit the fire (or lack thereof) the Islanders played with all game: A scramble and some saves by Kevin Poulin, followed the Isles getting to the inviting rebound but Mark Streit's clear going only as far as the grateful point man.
That point man, Brandon Manning (yeah, who?), calmly moved the puck over to Oliver Lauridsen. With time and space to tee off, the Dane fired a laser that beat Kevin Poulin on the short side.
- It's been a while since the Isles were outshot 13-4 in a period (the first), and 30-22 overall in a game.
- I lost count of how many icings the Flyers committed in the final 70 seconds with Kevin Poulin pulled for a sixth attacker. The Flyers didn't even bother trying to break out; just straightforward "we're firing it down the ice, go ahead and beat us if you can." The Isles could not.
- Kevin Poulin had luck on his side early on, with Wayne Simmonds hitting the post early and another shot ringing off iron, but he looked better and better as the game went on and did well to keep the Flyers to two goals. A good spot start for the youngster.
- Kyle Okposo has just been a different player the second half of this season, and tonight he was one of the few who looked alive. His outside speed rush elicited an "ole" from Luke Schenn. He worked hard along the boards and behind the net to win the puck in the last minute, but no dice.
- Every line had moments of sloppiness, but the first line was by far the most dangerous on this night, largely thanks to John Tavares of course. But Tavares, Brad Boyes, Matt Moulson, Lubomir Visnovsky, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen all had moments of out-willing their counterparts during the push for the tying goal. But on this night it was too little, too late.
- After a good forecheck by the third line with around four minutes to go, Keith Aucoin had an absolutely golden chance to set up Michael Grabner alone in front but he was too careful and put the pass too far behind Grabner. No shot resulted.
- It's silly to blame this loss on one or another lineup move (irate fans will do that regardless), but it still merits a mention: The worst-case scenario for dressing both Eric Boulton and Matt Carkner came to pass. Boulton committed a bad penalty (a crosscheck either from poor discipline or poor skating), and Carkner turned it over on the ensuing penalty kill, then abandoned his man in the scramble to cover his mistake.
- That man Carkner abandoned, Brayden Schenn, had all kinds of time to thread a nutmeg pass through Visnovsky for Danny Briere to easily slam home.
- Boulton had five shifts in that period (and one penalty), three shifts in each of the other periods. On his final shift midway through the third, he and Matt Martin got caught running around and it ended with Martin taking a poor penalty. The Isles PK survived that one, but the Flyers scored the winner a minute later.
- Speaking of Special Teams: The Islanders powerplay was pretty inert, generating just one shot on its lone opportunity. The Flyers powerplay, one of the league's best, generated eight shots on three full chances. The Isles PK won some timely rebounds and clears but didn't have much of an answer while the Flyers controlled the puck.
How This One Feels
Testy Capuano after 2-1 loss: "I’m not throwing any negativity at you guys. You guys cause all the s--t in the world about every negative."— Brett Cyrgalis (@BrettCyrgalis) April 26, 2013
So Jack Capuano is ticked off, and slapping back at the media. Easy, coach. It's not needed yet, not now and not when the media are finally paying attention for the first time in a while. Keep the team steady for the playoffs. Get them refocused on salvaging tomorrow.
Anyway, let's be honest here: This was the Islanders' first regulation loss of the month. It ends one helluva run, a generally disappointing performance that follows the hangover of clinching the other night. Despite the disappointment, we know one of those near-misses tonight could have changed things in their favor -- just like the good bounce the other night created John Tavares' game-saving equalizer.
For the first time this month, all results went completely against the Isles. (The Rangers and Senators not only came from behind to win, they won in OT instead of the shootout, boosting their ROW tiebreaker creds.) The Isles have one more game, tomorrow night. The Sens have two more.
Things can still end up anywhere from sixth to eighth place, but it's no longer in the Isles' hands.