It wasn’t the start or the finish the Islanders were looking for, but it was one hell of a way to come out with a tie through the first two games of the series with the Flyers.
The Islanders looked strong in the game’s opening minutes. However, Philadelphia converted on its first shot of the game and enjoyed a field day through the end of the first period. A quick 3-0 lead for the Flyers led to Semyon Varlamov’s afternoon ending early, but Thomas Greiss joined the fray and did his job while the Islanders fought back.
The Islanders erased a 3-0 deficit, including opening the third period down 3-1, in dramatic fashion, with Anthony Beauvillier scoring in the second half of the third to force overtime.
A point shot that bounced off the stick of Anders Lee and then the ice gave the Flyers the “home” split they needed, but you have to love the Islanders’ response and you have to wonder if that response is in the Flyers’ heads.
[Game Sum | Event Sum | NHL Gamecenter | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]
First Period: Varly Breaks Record, Decides That’s Enough
Okay, that headline is a bit harsh, and not actually what happened. But Varlamov definitely wants at least two of those goals he gave up in the first back.
Varlamov came into the afternoon having not allowed a goal since early in the third period of Game 4 against the Capitals. He finished Game 1 against the Flyers :40 from breaking Billy Smith’s all-time playoff shutout franchise record and actually broke the record before the first whistle today.
Meanwhile, the Islanders spent the first minute peppering Carter Hart and nearly saw the puck go in off the back glass. But Kevin Hayes capitalized on the first Isles’ mistake. On a 3-on-2 break, he rifled a shot over Varlamov’s shoulder, off the crossbar, and in. Wasn’t a great goal to give up, but you let him have that one after the run he’d been on. Besides, the Islanders conceded the first goal a few times these playoffs and came back to win, and they controlled play up until that rush, so it didn’t feel like a huge deal.
Then, Hayes scored again, this time short side off another odd-man rush. That one can’t go in. But again, the Islanders trailed 2-0 in Game 1 against the Capitals, so the game was far from over.
And for good measure, Sean Couturier put the Flyers up 3-0. He walked around Nick Leddy and deked Varlamov out of his shorts to deposit the puck into the net. That was the end of Varlamov’s day. 3 goals against on 10 shots faced—not the best stat line. For many teams, including the Islanders of most years past, that would’ve felt like the game.
But there’s something special about this team.
In came Greiss, making only his second appearance since March; his only other one being the third period of the Rangers exhibition three weeks ago.
Second Period: Much Better Play and a PPG
The Islanders looked a wee bit shell-shocked toward the end of the first period and a wee bit to start the second, as well. The Flyers were riding high off the momentum of their three-goal first period. But Greiss made the saves he needed to and that kept the score at 3-0.
There was a scrum early in the period in front of the Islanders net that resulted in one penalty, a roughing minor for Ross Johnston. Seemed odd that he was the only one to be penalized for the shoving, but c’est la vie. The Isles killed it off.
Later, Johnston took a borderline hit from Matt Niskanen at the Philadelphia blue line on the beginning of a rush—Niskanen put his shoulder into Johnston’s chest and face simultaneously. Johnston wasn’t a fan of it. The hit seemed to wake up the Islanders and they picked up their 5-on-5 play, though they were unable to solve Hart until they got a power play.
New York was awarded their first man advantage of the game when Jakub Voracek put the puck over the glass from behind his own net and the Islanders needed only :17 to convert. They won the faceoff and were able to set up. Mathew Barzal, from the bottom of the right face-off circle, gave Anders Lee a shot-pass for the deflection in front of the crease and Lee’s stick perfectly deflected the puck past Hart.
That deflection pulls us within 2! pic.twitter.com/R8veFX8fLs— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) August 26, 2020
With that goal, things started to feel different. The Islanders had been playing better, but sometimes a goalie is hot. Beating Hart once felt like the floodgates were set to open.
Third Period: What a Comeback
The Islanders definitely controlled play as the second period ended and they continued that trend into the third period. It was all New York and the Flyers could only try to gain the center line so they wouldn’t ice the puck. But Hart made some big saves and didn’t make it easy.
As the period progressed, positive feelings didn’t wane, and then, Anthony Beauvillier reminded us of his clutch ability. At the Philly blue line, he dropped the puck off to Josh Bailey and crashed toward the net. Bailey gave it right back to him and Beauvillier was able to corral the puck and fire as soon as he did, sneaking the puck under Hart’s short side arm. The Islanders trailed by one goal with just under nine minutes to play.
Gotta love a little give and go! pic.twitter.com/QDiYPymTYZ— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) August 26, 2020
They kept pressing and the Flyers were scrambling, struggling to clear the zone. On one such attempt, with under three minutes remaining, Adam Pelech kept the puck in with his skate at the Philadelphia blue line. Jean-Gabriel Pageau slid into the slot wide open to get the puck off of Pelech and fired over Hart’s shoulder to tie the game.
☝️ TIED ☝️— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) August 26, 2020
☝️ TIED ☝️
☝️ TIED ☝️ pic.twitter.com/gDf5TP7X9U
The Flyers challenged that the entry was offside because they were certain Brock Nelson hadn’t left the zone before Bailey brought the puck back in—and honestly, there’s a good chance it was correct. However, the replays on TV appeared inconclusive and the referees called the goal good. The failed challenge gave the Islanders a power play for most of the rest of regulation, and I was really hoping they’d finish Philly off there, but they were not able to and off to overtime we went.
Overtime: Quick Heartbreak, but a Better Feeling Overall
The Islanders forcing overtime after their dreadful start was reward enough, I think, for the team, but it would’ve been sweeter than candy to finish off the comeback with an OT win. Sadly, that would not be the result.
There was a scramble down low in front of the Islanders net, but the puck remained out of Greiss’ net. The puck squirted out to Philippe Myers at the point and he fired away. The shot ricocheted downward off Lee’s stick, skipped off the ice, and sneaked past Greiss short side just under three minutes into the extra frame. He played admirably, and that’s a rough goal to have to save.
The Islanders played well, and arguably deserved the win here, but a “road” 1-1 split is a great way to start a series, if we’re being honest. The way the game played out, overall, has to be a confidence boost for the Isles; if it wasn’t, well, they won’t be forced to dwell long on it—they’re right back at it for Game 3 tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. EDT.