Doug Weight experienced his first loss as New York Islanders head coach, though the Isles still salvaged a point in his third game behind the bench, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
It was a costly three-point game in the standings for the Isles. In their attempt to build a new lease on life under Weight, the fifth-in-the-Metro Flyers are one of the teams they would have to pass.
With the win Philadelphia, which has struggled mightily since a 10-game win streak vaulted it into playoff conversation, climbs back into the second wild card spot. The Isles, now in a three-way tie (47 points) in last in the East, are five points behind the Flyers but with three games in hand.
It was another generally spirited effort for the Isles under Weight, though nothing to indicate they’re a bet to exceed what the Flyers are capable of over the second half of the season. The Flyers had the better of play, though the Isles weren’t without exclamation-spurring chances, while the Isles led for the middle half of the game.
Nick Leddy opened scoring to finish a crazy sequence at 13:25 of the first period. His goal was unassisted, though assists could have gone to John Tavares, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey, each of whom had a hand in hurling a shot on and drawing Steve Mason out of the net as chaos reined around the Flyers crease.
Leddy was the final trailer, sending the puck into a mostly open net as Mason lay prone, legs desperately thrust into the air in Hasek fashion.
So the Isles emerged from the first period with a 1-0 lead despite being outshot 15-8.
To open the period, the Islanders survived a 33-second 5-on-3 — and a disputed scrum where all five Flyers in the crease felt they’d scored on the three Islanders skaters and one goalie also gathered there, but the refs saved them “intent to blow.” Alas, that served as a warning shot that the hockey gods were coming, as soon after Thomas Greiss’ shutout streak came to an end.
At 14:10 of the second, it ended with the flip-side of how such runs persist: with a bounce that didn’t go the Isles’ way. It was actually a fantastic finish by Wayne Simmonds, but he was all alone low in the faceoff circle thanks to a carom at the blueline that turned an Isles clear into a point-blank chance for Simmonds.
The Isles would get through the rest of the period — outshot 19-13 in this one -- still holding the lead, but that too ended early in the third period, when Brayden Schenn did well to find space around two Isles in the left wing circle to send a tap-in to the far post for Ivan Provorov.
Provorov featured in the next significant moment: the Isles’ first power play of the game. That came thanks to Anders Lee getting a step on him on a breakaway, drawing a call. The power play was impressive, one of those where the first unit had so much pressure over the first 90 seconds that they left the ice exhausted after coming agonizingly close to scoring on multiple chances.
The Isles got their second power play seven seconds after that one expired, on a puck-over-the-glass call, but the second unit wasn’t able to generate the same pressure as its predecessor.
The 3-on-3 period featured a great one-timer save by Greiss and a Tavares breakaway stopped by Mason’s glove, among a handful of other highlights that made for an exciting sudden death (er, sudden loss of bonus point) show.
But with franchise center going against franchise center, Claude Giroux had the last shot. Shayne Gostisbehere circled the net on a rebound and his wraparound found Giroux at the doorstep to give the Flyers the win and extra point.
As noted a few days ago, the Isles have an opportunity with their games in hand, but that also means a busy schedule.
Next up is second-place Columbus (68 points) on Tuesday, the fourth game of this six-game homestand to begin the Doug Weight era.