The New York Islanders salvaged a point from a game they probably deserved to lose in regulation, even though they were just a few minutes away from taking both regulation points themselves in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
With the Islanders looking to rebound from Tuesday’s massacre, they...showed that they continue to be what you probably think they are. The Flyers played a disciplined, patient yet speedy game to both frustrate and put the Islanders on their heels for most of the first 40 minutes.
It was through good fortune and Jaroslav Halak that the Isles were even in the game by the end of the second period and in position to win it outright late in the third.
But a late power play equalizer with a sixth attacker saved the day for the Flyers, and Claude Giroux won it in the shootout after the Isles survived an overtime penalty kill
Throughout the John Tavares era one sure sign of struggles is when Tavares tries to do too much in high-risk, low-reward situations. Though he has the talent and magic to pull that off on occasion, it does break from process and it’s not called for in non-desperate situations.
But the way the Isles are playing lately, a 0-0 tie in the middle of the second period at home can still feel desperate.
So it was that Tavares twice in succession gained the zone — but not for long — on plays where there was not much there amid a crowd of players. On the second occasion, the Flyers pounced and capitalized, with Radko Gudas making a perfect pass — Radko Gudas, doing something non-thuggish! — up ice to hot rookie Travis Konecny for a breakaway.
Halak, who was sharp throughout, was quick with the glove to stop Konecny’s shot, but couldn’t quite catch the puck and wasn’t quick enough to prevent Konecny swatting in the rebound from the goal line.
That put the Flyers up 1-0, and Tavares admitted his error during an intermission interview.
Fortunately, the Isles had tied it by the time they reached that intermission. They were gifted a 5-on-3 late when Sean Couturier was whistled for a light hook on Brock Nelson, and Tavares tied the game three seconds after the first penalty expired.
The bad Barclays ice and poor shot selection — not sure a 5-on-3 with bad late-period ice is when you want Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy firing blasts that are liable to carom around the boards and out of the zone — conspired to nearly waste the advantage.
But admirable patience and a nifty pass from Casey Cizikas set Tavares up at the back door.
So once again, the Islanders were fortunate to be tied entering the third period and this time they took that house money and played with it a bit. The third period was a better showing overall, though they didn’t break through until Michal Neuvirth looked like a true 2007-15 era Isles goalie and let a Dennis Seidenberg wobbler go through his legs.
Seidenberg’s goal with 7:05 remaining created the perfect test for these struggling early season Islanders: Could they hold a late one-goal lead, or at least do the proper things that protect such a lead more often than not?
Not so on the former, and “it depends” on the latter. They didn’t immediately shell up, and they pressed a few chances and made a few competent zone exits rather than simple dumps out of their zone.
It might have worked, even though they were also loose in allowing some counterattacks, including Giroux getting set up in prime scoring position, forcing Halak to get enough of the puck to have it deflect away off the outside of the post.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a fully legitimate lead-protect test, as the Flyers went on the power play with 2:45 left. Giroux drew the penalty, taking a high stick as key Isles penalty killer Cizikas battled with him behind the net. The Flyers were crestfallen that it was only a two-minute call despite Giroux heading straight to the dressing room.
They got the equalizer after several close calls, finally converting with the help of some Barclays boards bounces and Neuvirth pulled to create a 6-on-4. Matt Read was in the crease to tap in what Nick Cousins had swatted at the goal from the bounce off the end boards.
Overtime started pleasantly enough, as far as 3-on-3 goes, with John Tavares, Ryan Strome and Nick Leddy controlling play in the Flyers zone on the opening shift. But nothing came of that, and the rest was tame until Jason Chimera took a New NHL holding penalty as Voracek bodied him while on a breakaway.
The Islanders did pretty well in killing off that penalty, survived the nearly 30 seconds that remained after it expired, and off to the shootout they went.
Giroux was the only shootout scorer, converting on some world-class moves and changes of speed that you just wish Tavares would display in the breakaway drill. Instead, it ended with a Neuvirth pokecheck of Tavares as he did his usual and futile slow-motion approach.
Game attendance was announced as 11,119. And they said Barclays wasn’t big enough for hockey!
The eleventy billion-game homestand continues when Connor McDavid And The Edmonton Oilers(TM) visit on Saturday night.