It was Hockey Fights Cancer night at Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia Flyers wore lavender-trimmed jerseys for warm-ups, all bearing the name and number of Oskar Lindblom, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in December 2019, conquered it by July 2020, and returned to the ice for Games 6 and 7 against the New York Islanders in the second round of the bubble playoffs in September 2020.
I remember Lindblom’s return really inspiring the Flyers in Game 6, a game in which they started really hot. Perhaps Philadelphia felt a bit of the same inspiration tonight because they dominated the first forty minutes of this game.
But Ilya Sorokin had other ideas. The rookie Russian netminder bailed out the Islanders all night long, keeping the Islanders alive in a scoreless game. The Islanders finally came alive in the third period but Brian Elliott did his best to match his opponent. The game went to overtime without a goal, so we knew the game would end 1–0.
Thankfully, the good guys got it—off a really fluky goal—and Sorokin kept his well-earned shutout. He was outstanding tonight to give the Isles two hugely important standings points.
The Isles moved back into second place after the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Buffalo Sabres this afternoon. They are a point ahead of the Penguins, even in games played, and sit two points behind the Washington Capitals with a game in hand on them. With the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers surging, the East Division continues to tighten.
Ilya Sorokin got the start, given his strong track record against the Flyers. That resume got a little more impressive tonight.
Josh Bailey and Cal Clutterbuck missed their second straight games. The forward personnel did not change from Friday night against the Bruins. However, on defense, Noah Dobson exited the lineup and Braydon Coburn replaced him in his Islanders’ debut.
Coburn lined up next to Andy Greene and... oof. I try not to get too down on Barry Trotz because there is usually a method to his madness, but there is no objective justification for that one, and it went as well as you might expect. Yes, Dobson has struggled since returning from his COVID-19 absence, and it was noticeable Friday night. But Greene is 38 years old. Dobson has more or less carried him around this season. If anyone needed an extra break, it was Greene; he especially did not need to move to his off-side to let Coburn come into the lineup.
Also, Travis Zajac and Leo Komarov switched spots to start the game, with Komarov returning to the top line and Zajac taking Clutterbuck’s spot at RW4. With the game still scoreless at the midpoint, though, Zajac skated back onto the top line.
First Period: Sorokin Saves Their Bacon
Sorokin robbed Kevin Hayes to make his first save of the game. The Flyers, though, controlled play throughout the first half of the period.
Though Anthony Beauvillier had a chance off the rush that I thought went on net, the Islanders did not register a shot-on-goal until the halfway mark. That shot, though, was a nice one from Michael Dal Colle in the slot.
Later in the period, the Islanders lacked coverage in the defensive zone and Joel Farabee was all by himself in front of Sorokin. The only reason the puck did not end up in the back of the net was that it rolled off Farabee’s stick.
Komarov got back and broke up a surefire goal by running into a guy that would have converted a three-on-two. On the same play, Greene turned it over but Sorokin stoned Travis Sanheim.
Sorokin continued his brilliance while the team in front of him continued its floundering; with about three minutes left in the first, the entire Islanders’ line looked completely lost in its own zone. Frankly, it’s amazing that they did not give up a goal there, or at all this period.
Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle had a two-on-one near the end of the period, but Baral elected to shoot and threw it over the net. The Isles broke up a couple more chances late and then things got chippy after the horn. Komarov, of course, was at the center of it.
Second Period: You Know This Story Already, but Sorokin Doesn’t
The Islanders went right to the penalty kill at the beginning of the second period as Casey Cizikas took the game’s first penalty, an offensive zone trip on Ivan Provorov. The Islanders really did not kill it well—Sorokin was easily the best killer.
But Beauvillier floated a clear to center ice right as Cizikas exited the box. The two forwards escaped on a two-on-one and Cizikas held it all the way before squeezing a shot through the pads of Brian Elliott. It squirted through his pads, but unfortunately wide.
Shortly thereafter, Nick Leddy found Eberle with plenty of space, but Eberle bobbled the pass and missed the puck.
Off a Philadelphia icing, Barzal skated to the blue line and curled back for a shot that handcuffed Elliott and produced a rebound that Eberle backhanded, and Elliott turned aside.
Just after the halfway point of the period, Sorokin again stood tall in stopping both a Hayes shot that Coburn tipped and the repeated jabs of Farabee and Wade Allison.
At around the 5:00 mark, Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri entered the Flyers’ zone on a two-on-one. Nelson kept the puck to shoot, but he put it wide. And in the final few minutes, Beauvillier and Jean-Gabriel Pageau had their own two-on-one. Pageau got the pass across but Beauvillier whiffed on the initial try. He forced a second-chance opportunity, but he was already behind the cage, at that point.
I do not remember when exactly in the second period this save happened, but boy was it beautiful.
Third Period: Finally, Some Effort
Early in the frame, Palmieri fired a point blast that Travis Konecny blocked with his knee, hobbling him. With the Flyers buzzing yet again, Komarov broke up another chance and then drew a penalty, a hook for Hayes giving the Isles their first power play.
On the power play, the Islanders won the face-off and were able to set up a nice play for Palmieri in the bumper spot. Another chance for the top unit resulted from some battling, but they could not break through. The second unit did not do much with their ice time. And the Islanders changed horrendously as Hayes came out of the penalty box, allowing him to skate around the net for a wraparound try that missed.
The Islanders, though, finally looked to have some juice in their game and Barzal drew a holding penalty on Allison. On the first entry, Eberle turned it over and Sean Couturier had a breakaway try that Sorokin saved. Other than a Leddy point shot that Elliott stopped blindly through traffic, this power play looked more like their usual power play—which is to say, very bad.
Pageau forechecked and forced a turnover in the offensive zone and fed Palmieri in the slot. But Elliott shut it down. A similar play occurred with Matt Martin forechecking and Cizikas in the slot.
Adam Pelech led a rush and shot the puck off Sanheim. It rolled to Palmieri, but it bounced on him and he was only able to get under it. Later, Eberle skated in on a rush and threw a backhand at the net but Elliott was there. The rebound worked back around to Coburn, who skyed a fly ball for Elliott to snare.
A Flyers rush proved to be hairy, with the rebound popping out to Sanheim. But Ryan Pulock got his stick on it to send it out of play.
The last two minutes were mostly about maintaining the point for both teams and we headed to overtime in a scoreless tie.
Overtime: We’ll Take It!
Sorokin stopped Provorov early in overtime and then the Isles regained control. Barzal danced by himself for a good twenty seconds before throwing the puck toward the net. Barzal and Nelson entered on a rush but Elliott made a huge save.
The Islanders gained the puck and held possession while they changed. Pelech went to the bench from deep in the Philadelphia zone, allowing Leddy to sneak in undetected on an Isles rush. He tried to feed Eberle cross-ice but Sanheim tipped the puck through Elliott’s five-hole for the win and to break the shutout streak. Phew.
Notes and Thoughts
- Nice to get the win after all that.
- But the awful first forty minutes, given the circumstances and given the last two games, was a bit confounding. Is it really the absence of Bailey and Clutterbuck? If so, good God. The only chances this team had all throughout the first two periods were two-on-ones, which are more the result of poor defensive and neutral zone coverage on Philadelphia’s part than any good work by the Islanders.
- Barzal had a few turnovers tonight. Trotz won’t like those. But he cleaned up his game as the night wore on and looked dangerous.
- Pierre McGuire, working the nationally televised game with our very own Brendan Burke, took his normal spot between the benches and said the Isles’ bench was loudly supportive of the guys on the ice. That’s good to hear, at least. And after the game-winner, NBCSN cut to the Isles’ bench cam, which exploded with the win. The coaches, too. You don’t see Barry Trotz get that excited too often during the regular season.
- The Islanders went seven regulation periods without a goal (nearly eight periods, since their last goal came early in the second period Thursday night in Boston) before that fluky overtime winner. You take the goals and the points any way you can get them, huh? Hopefully, that opens the floodgates, so to speak.
- And finally, Sorokin. Oh man, Sorokin. What a king. He is feeling it right now. I wish the various (Congratulations to Chico Resch for having two excellent rookie seasons, too.)
Ilya Sorokin of the @NYIslanders recorded his third shutout of the season to move into a tie with Alex Nedeljkovic for the most among rookie goaltenders. #NHLStats: https://t.co/YDUd0bgin9 pic.twitter.com/SSq6zQlhgE— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 19, 2021
The Islanders return back to the Coliseum to host the rival Rangers, who just swept their four-game series against the New Jersey Devils. It will be a 7:00 p.m. ET start.