The New York Islanders are one win away from their first conference final appearance since 1993. They really played some mediocre hockey tonight (and the Flyers were giving it their all to avoid going down 3-1) and it didn’t matter because Thomas Greiss... stepped up and made big plays. One of his saves even turned play the other way, which set the stage for Brock Nelson’s second goal of the night. They didn’t make it easy to watch tonight, but the team is in the driver’s seat now for this series and who cares if the hockey’s “boring”? I’m having fun, you’re having fun, we’re all having fun.
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It was a little chippy early in the first period, as Casey Cizikas and Travis Konecny both went off for roughing after some good Flyers chances to start the game.
Cal Clutterbuck later went off for interference after very blatantly running into Travis Sanheim, but the Isles were able to kill off the penalty. Not too much later, Mathew Barzal drew a penalty after a great shift where he skated his way around everyone in the offensive zone, where he was slashed by Konecny.
That Isles PP would be arguably one of the best we’ve seen in the bubble, but Brian Elliott did his part in the battle of the backups to stop 9 power play shots, including a Ryan Pulock blast, an Anders Lee shot from the rebound, and a Barzal one timer. He’d end up with 18 saves in the period, and both backups were a big reason why the game was scoreless after one.
The game could’ve gone a bit differently as a Sanheim blast hit the post, but instead the Isles would score first when Josh Bailey picked off a poor clearing attempt from Robert Hagg after the Flyers forwards had already left the zone. He kept the puck in and got it to Brock Nelson alone in front, who put the puck up in the toy department past Elliott for his first of the game.
TOY. DEPARTMENT. @91Butch | #Isles pic.twitter.com/3nJoL1Ij8b— Isles on MSG Plus (@IslesMSGN) August 31, 2020
After the goal, the Flyers pushed hard and the Islanders took their foot off the gas a bit. Greiss needed to come up big and he did, stopping 16 of 17 Flyers shots, including a steady barrage for basically the entire second half of the period. The only puck that went past him was a Sean Couturier tip in front off a Justin Braun point shot.
The Flyers nearly took the lead when Jakob Voracek got to a puck in the Isles zone first, but again Greiss made the save. Jordan Eberle missed an empty net after a nifty move to get the puck to his backhand, and a Barzal faceoff win led to an Adam Pelech shot that hit the post.
Despite the Flyers pressure though, Scott Mayfield skated the puck up into the neutral zone and passed it off to Jean-Gabriel Pageau for a breakaway. Pageau’s first attempt was saved by Elliott but he was able to poke home the second attempt to give the Isles a 2-1 lead. He’s been a key contributor these playoffs with 7 goals so far, and they’ve all been pretty clutch, too.
JG, and I can’t stress this enough, Pageau— Isles on MSG Plus (@IslesMSGN) August 31, 2020
Thomas Greiss later made a huge save on Konecny, which quickly led to Anthony Beauvillier getting the puck. Beauvillier kicked it up the ice soccer style to Nelson, who skated it in for a 2 on 1 with Josh Bailey. He passed it off to Bailey who passed it back to Nelson, who pushed it into an empty net. Just a massive play from Greiss and the Nelson line to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead.
Just. Good. Hockey. pic.twitter.com/FZM2qQIJ2K— Isles on MSG Plus (@IslesMSGN) August 31, 2020
Never ones to make it easy, it seemed that the Isles were trying to get the puck to Nelson for a shot at a hat trick, and instead blew a clearing chance after the Flyers pulled Elliott. That blown clearing opportunity led to an Ivan Provorov goal with a minute left in the game, and the Isles were able to hold on with help from Mayfield wasting time in the corner for the 3-2 win.
- The Barzal line didn’t get on the scoresheet tonight, but had a strong game as the only complete line with a positive CF at 5v5. Eberle also had a breakout game where he had a few great scoring opportunities, so he seems more engaged and hopefully will start putting the puck in the net.
- The Cizikas line was really bad against the Couturier line. That lack of presence from Cizikas specifically has been noticeable, but fortunately the rest of the team has done their best to pick up the slack.
- Josh Bailey now has 13 points in 13 playoff games this year. He’s been having a monster postseason on arguably the Isles’ most consistent line.
Next, the Islanders will look to close out the series against the Flyers in Game 5 on Tuesday. A win would punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals. LFG.