You want goals? The New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers offered -- and bled -- plenty of goals in a 6-4 seesaw affair in Philadelphia on Saturday night. The Flyers ended up on top, thanks to a third-period effort that kept the Isles from being the last team to pounce on a weak goaltender.
The Islanders offered Steve Mason a rude form of congratulations on his big new contract announced earlier in the day, peppering him with 24 shots in the first 26 minutes of the game and beating him four times. That prompted Flyers coach Craig Berube to give Mason a mercy pull, and you'd think it was a good "wake up" move by the way the rest of the game went.
Ah, but the other end of the goalie equation in this game was Kevin Poulin, surviving without being yanked after getting beaten four times on his first 25 shots -- though those 25 shots stretched into the middle of the third period -- and then finding himself sliding bewilderingly far out of his crease on the Flyers' fifth goal with just 4:15 left in regulation.
That goal, by Michael Raffl, stood up as the winner and was the only goal as ugly as Poulin's inexplicable concession to Andrej Meszaros for the Flyers first goal way back in the first period.
After the Isles opened a 2-0 lead, Meszaros scored twice to pull level by the first intermission, the first one on a bad angle low along the ice which Poulin played like a 1984-era rookie.
The Isles gave up another goal early in the second period to fall behind 3-2, before mounting their best stretch of the game. By the second intermission they'd grabbed the lead back at 4-3 on goals from Brock Nelson and Brian Strait.
Then they blew it.
The Flyers had already erased 3rd-period deficits eight times this season, and came from behind in 10 of their last 14 victories. The Isles' limp effort in the third period made it an easy 11th in their last 15.
As these games sometimes do, the first half was also marked by lots of physical play and trading of hits between the usual suspects, including Eric Boulton (who also fought Jay Rosehill) and Scott Hartnell. Hartnell was later at fault for a lazy backcheck on Nelson's goal, and by that point the rough stuff and flashing of feathers had subsided as the two teams focused on their pond hockey exhibition.
Third Period Shots: 14-2. Fourteen to TWO!
The story of this loss is one part collapse and one part goaltending, maddening goaltending. Poulin gave up some awful goals, but lucky for him the loss isn't completely on him since his teammates disappeared in the final frame.
Despite outchancing their opponent for the first two periods (18-11 by the Flyers broadcast's count), the Islanders maddeningly came out flat and conservative with a third of the game left to play. The hockey gods do not smile on such an approach.
The Flyers had the first eight shots of the period and tied it once again at 7:14, Jakub Voracek finishing a one-timer on a great feed from Claude Giroux after the Flyers worked the puck back and forth across the Islanders' zone. Literally, Poulin "didn't have a chance" on that one. That one.
By the grace of the hockey gods, there was a chance at relief, but the Isles did not take it. They received a puck-over-the-glass power play shortly after Voracek's goal, but they refused that gift. Zero shots followed on a power play where they never worked the puck inside the perimeter.
The mounted very little pressure after that as well, so it was just a matter of time before the Flyers notched another. That Poulin looked so bad on the winner -- overplaying himself out of his crease to the right side -- only poured salt in the wound, though the team defense was also caught flat-footed there and throughout the period.
That this defeat keeps them in last place in the Metro after 50 games means Monday afternoon's rematch can't come soon enough.
Special Plea (and Warning) for Comments: I know that loss stunk to hell and boils the blood, but please don't be jerks to each other in comments.