It's a good thing the New York Islanders were playing their only game in a six-day span, because Tuesday's game ended up being their fourth overtime game in a row. (That ties a team record from 2001, by the way. /Hornick'd) Like the other two "wins" in this four-OT streak, they won via shootout, 4-3, extending their point streak to eight games despite mostly deserving to lose this one.
After a strong first period against a team you'd think the Islanders should beat, the Isles all but disappeared as the Flyers made life miserable for them and made Jaroslav Halak steal the game.
Frans Nielsen scored early in both of the first two periods and, through the first 21 minutes at least, it looked like most omens pointed to it being a cruising night for the Islanders. True, a misplay at the Flyers blueline allowed Claude Giroux and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to break out on a shorthanded 2-on-0 to tie the game at 1-1. But even on that, the Isles quickly got their lead back on the same power play with some great box movement behind the net and to the slot, where Nick Leddy fired a shot Brock Nelson deflected past Steve Mason.
Nielsen's goal from distance at 1:14 of the second period made it 3-1 and chased Mason for MIchal Neuvirth.
But then, the Flyers adjusted. They swarmed. They kept the Isles from clean breakouts. They dug relentlessly in the corners and used every inch of gap the Isles defense gave them.
They got one back from Ryan White three minutes after Nielsen's goal, then had golden opportunities to get more but for the work of Jaroslav Halak. The Flyers thought they tied it on the power play when the puck went in off Wayne Simmonds, but lengthy video review determined he'd redirected it in with a kicking motion. Still, the Isles were lucky to get out of the period with a lead, having been outshot 17-5.
The lead didn't last long past intermission.
Leddy's Tough Night
Nick Leddy definitely chose the right season to compete at his ceiling and the right reason to take blow after blow from Fortune's Wheel. If everything went right last season for Leddy, who earned himself a handsome extension as an RFA, much has gone wrong in 2015-16. He looked to finally get his first goal of the season on an early power play, only to have the deflected goal later credited to Brock Nelson.
That's actually ideal bad luck. But later he was on the whiffing end in front of the Isles net as he tried to clear on Ryan White's goal. Then to make matters worse, Giroux tied it 3-3 early in the third period when his shot rode up at Leddy, bounced off his chest and past Halak.
Le Pant, Le Pant, Le Pant
Giroux's equalizer was just two minutes into the period. Though the Isles recovered a little bit after that -- which is to say, they showed up and didn't look completely lost -- the Flyers still dictated more of play. Casey Cizikas had a clear breakaway that Neuvirth stopped, and Neuvirth made a couple of other really good saves, but Halak was again the goalie most tested, and tested for repeated rebound opportunities in tight.
He also got a bit lucky -- if you can call it "luck" when you've made two fantastic saves and your defense is falling all around you -- when Bellemare had an open net but hit Travis Hamonic's bum instead. (Mercifully, the puck went ouf of play.)
Halak finished regulation with 42 saves.
Overtime: Counting Is Hard.
The overtime, ah overtime. The Flyers had more chances, the Isles had nice almost-chances that they botched before getting a shot on, and then just when the Flyers were going to give the Isles a power play, the Isles wasted it by putting an "extra" attacker out there way before Halak got to the bench.
Maybe this was a counting thing -- you hear, "extra attacker! extra attacker! and see only three skaters out there, you think it's time to jump. Except Halak wasn't even above the circles yet. Should there be two defensemen out? Just one? Can we pull the goalie here? Is this really a penalty? I don't know, it must be hard counting or something. Because the Isles in OT are doing it wrong.
I already hate 3-on-3 circus OT almost as much as I hate the shootout. Almost. But whatever. Kyle Okposo made a majestically sick move -- similar to what Giroux tried but sent high -- on the only conversion, while Halak stopped all three chances.
only goal of the shootout was from Okposo pic.twitter.com/Vk3zzwK9Ly— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 9, 2015
Boychuk what are you doing pic.twitter.com/0HxWJHKGL8— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 9, 2015
Was it Simpson or Milbury or Cashman?
In their defense, the Flyers nasally "tasty cakes" play-by-play man kind of scoffed at the question and called it "a layup." But that's just awful. Who coached the Flyers' Cup wins -- Terry Murray, Wayne Cashman or Fred Shero?
The Isles next play Saturday at home against the Blue Jackets, the first of a back-to-back on the weekend that finishes Sunday in New Jersey, before a one-off trip to Florida.