The first two periods of Thursday night’s game were not the New York Islanders’ best. But they forced a comeback against the Philadelphia Flyers that, even though it did not result in points, reminded the Islanders that they can beat this team.
And tonight, they reminded themselves of that well before the Flyers got on the board.
The Islanders rode a four-goal first period to a comfortable 6–1 victory over the Flyers, boosted by two goals from Casey Cizikas and two critical assists from Thomas Hickey, playing in his first NHL game in over two calendar years.
Kieffer Bellows and Sebastian Aho sat out tonight, replaced by Leo Komarov and Thomas Hickey, the latter of whom made his first appearance of the season. Komarov found his way to the top-line, which I joked about in the comments on the Bits/Game Thread but actually worked out well.
First Period: Excellent Start, to Say the Least
Before any of the goals were scored, Michael Raffl ran and/or was pushed into Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin laid on his back for a few seconds but waved his blocker to signify that he was okay. Meanwhile, Matt Martin shoved Raffl’s face into the cold ice.
The goalie-running seemed only to fire up the Islanders, and they rattled off three goals in less than four minutes.
First up, a power-play goal for Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Travis Konecny, noted tool, took a blatant hooking penalty against Adam Pelech. Oliver Wahlstrom, as he is wont to do, fired a shot from the high-slot. The Flyers blocked that attempt, but it popped out right to Pageau. He did not wait nor dust it off; he just blasted. 1–0 Islanders.
PAGEAU PAGEAU PAGEAU PAGEAU— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 20, 2021
PAGEAUUUUUUUUUU, PAGEAU pic.twitter.com/0lfVOoZjPx
The next goal belonged to Jordan Eberle. Hickey, in his first NHL game in over a year, pinched in with the puck, skated behind the net, and dished it toward the slot, as if he had done this with regularity (and let me say that I am so thrilled that Hickey not only reappeared in the lineup but thrived in it). Komarov created some chaos while Mathew Barzal retrieved the puck. He threw it at Hart and it bounced out into the slot. Eberle doesn’t miss those chances, and he put it into the back of the net when he picked it up. 2–0 Islanders.
Pageau and Eberle go back to back pic.twitter.com/pVP0bYaAZV— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) March 20, 2021
Then, Casey Cizikas had two consecutive goals. First, he forced a turnover in the neutral zone, skated over the blue line, and ripped the puck past Carter Hart. 3–0. Then, he battled in the corner and got the puck out to some friends. Hickey ended up with the puck and seamed a gorgeous cross-ice pass back to Cizikas, who dropped to one knee to hit the net that Hart did not get over to cover. 4–0 Islanders.
Cizikas with goal #2— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) March 20, 2021
He battled back from the boards on this one! pic.twitter.com/BhjbL7cPWi
The Flyers got one back, but they needed an uncalled penalty to do it. Scott Laughton wrestled Adam Pelech to the ice, creating a two-on-one for him and Joel Farabee. Andy Greene did the right thing by cutting off the pass back to Laughton, but Farabee’s shot sneaked under Sorokin’s arm.
Second Period: Maintain
No goals went in this period, but the Islanders maintained their game and the score. They had to kill two penalties—one early because Greene interfered with Konecny, and another in the middle of the period when Cal Clutterbuck tripped Erik Gustafsson.
The Isles also had a power-play themselves after Philippe Myers dangerously shoved Barzal’s head into the boards. They threatened a bit but did not score, of course.
Third Period: Finishing the Deal
Halfway through the period, Nate Prosser skated behind his goal to play a puck and tried to throw it to one of his teammates. Instead, Anthony Beauvillier knocked it out of the air. Brock Nelson grabbed the puck off of Beauvillier’s stick and gave it right back to Beauvillier, who pushed the puck past Hart. 5–1 Islanders.
And finally, Hart went behind his net to play the puck and tried to throw it to one of his teammates. Instead, Josh Bailey knocked it out of the air and put it right into the net. 6–1 Islanders. Ball game.
The Islanders and Flyers play the rubber match on Monday night at 7:00 p.m. in Philadelphia. I think the Isles will keep this train rolling.