Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:Heading into the third up one on a divisional opponent that they are chasing in the standings, the Islanders sorely needed two points and, if possible, to take those two points in regulation. In the end, the Islanders got nothing. They’ll get nothing and like it.
The team finished 4-2 on the six game roadie, certainly a good mark but not what they needed as they continue to chase in the Metro Division. After tonight’s game, they sit seven back of Columbus for the 8th playoff spot and on top of that, the Blue Jackets have two extra games to play. They closed three points over the course of the road trip but that could have been four or, with one more good period, five.
Tonight’s game was a back and forth game with both goalies coming up short at times. The Islanders would jump out quickly to a 2-0 lead in the first period off goals from John Tavares and Cal Clutterbuck.
For Clutterbuck it was a short-handed marker, his seventh goal of the year and third shortie of the season as well (not to bring up a sore subject, but the MSG broadcast team note that former Islander Nino Niederreiter is only outscoring the not-so-offensively-gifted Clutterbuck by two, in six more games). Somewhere, Garik is smiling.
Philly would battle back quickly off two first period goals from Andrej Meszaros and they got some help from Kevin Poulin. Meszaros’ first goal was from an insane angle, through Poulin’s five-hole. It actually reminds me of a cheat spot that used to be in the original EA Sports hockey game; skate straight up the left wing and throw it on net, somehow it goes in.
Tied at two after one period, the scoring kept coming in the middle frame and the Flyers would take their first lead of the game about three minutes in. Adam Hall tipped in a point shot from Mark Streit to put the home team in front.
In the latter ten minutes of the second period the Flyers would run into trouble with their newly-extended netminder. Steve Mason, who signed a three-year contract extension earlier in the day, gave up two goals in three minutes of the third and got yanked by coach Craig Berube. Mason would finish the night with only 20 saves on 24 shots, a bad omen for the new deal.
For the Islanders, it was Brock Nelson and Brian Strait with deflection goals to put the Islanders back in the lead, 4-3. Nelson tipped in a point shot from Calvin de Haan and Strait’s shot appeared to re-direct off a Flyer in front.
If this one went to overtime tied at 4-4 and was decided one way or the other in the shootout, in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t be too bad. The Islanders would find a way to finish out a 4-1 road trip with a point or two in Philly.
But of course, it wasn’t quite so easy.
It was a literally implosion in the third that saw the team back on their heels for the entire twenty minutes, with no answers for what the Flyers were doing. All of a sudden, it was back to looking like the version of the Islanders that lost 10-games in a row in November/December.
Out shot 14-2 in the third is meekingly going away when you’re down a couple goals, not how a team should play when they’re up one. Not only that, but the Islanders had only four shot attempts in the third (Flyers had 17). Only four pucks went towards backup netminder Ray Emery in the third (.896 SVP!).
For the tying goal, the Islanders first line got beasted in their own zone. Tic-tac-toe passing from the Flyers top line beat Poulin side-to-side on a beautiful cross-ice feed from Claude Giroux to Jakob Voracek, reminiscent of something usually seen from the Islanders top three.
To put the Flyers ahead, Giroux and Michael Raffl broke in two-on-two and caught Poulin well out of position. It’s not fair to put the whole game on Poulin — the offense literally did nothing in the third — but this goal was horrendous positioning by any stretch. The Flyers would add one on the empty net later on, and that was all she wrote.
Both teams will be back at it at the Coliseum on Monday at 1pm.