Flyers Blank Islanders in 1-0 Shootout
Playing each other in Elmont for the second time in a four-night span, the Philadelphia Flyers (11-9-1) and New York Islanders (8-6-6) dueled to 65 minutes of scoreless hockey at UBS Arena on Saturday evening. Subsequently, after three shootout rounds, neither team had scored.
In the top half of the fourth round, New York's Kyle Palmieri lost the puck and could not get off a shot attempt. Finally, in the bottom of the fourth, Flyers rookie winger Tyson Foerster snapped a low shot home to end the game and deliver a 1-0 (1-0) win for Philadelphia.
Both Flyers goaltender Samuel Ersson (24 saves on 24 shots in the game, 4 saves on 4 shootout attempts) and Islanders counterpart Ilya Sorokin (40 saves on 40 shots during regulation and overtime, 3 saves on 4 shots in the skills competition) were credited with shutouts. For Ersson, it was his second career NHL shutout and first of the 2023-24 season.
The Islanders, who had a road game in Ottawa on Friday while the Flyers were at home against the New York Rangers, got off to a quick start in the first period. They generated six shots in the game's first three minutes and had the ice tilted for roughly the opening five minutes. Thereafter, the Flyers dominated the rest of the first period, but could not score against Sorokin.
As outstanding as Sorokin was in Wednesday's win over the Flyers, he was nothing short of phenomenal on Saturday. The Flyers went on to outchance the Islanders throughout the night, but they just could not solve Sorokin. Along the way, Philly generated slot chances, deflections, scrambles around the net but couldn't put a single puck in the net. In fact, there was only play all night where Sorokin had to look behind to be sure the puck wasn't loose near the goal line.
Ersson wasn't as busy as Sorokin, apart for the first couple minutes of the first period. However, when chances did come his way, the Flyers' goaltender had to step up for multiple clutch saves on high-danger chances. It was an old-fashioned goaltenders' duel on the Island.
The Islanders' skaters blocked 24 shot attempts in front of Sorokin, while Philly blocked 26 for Ersson. Foerster and Travis Konecny in particular came off the ice temporarily hobbling from eating particularly stinging pucks.
The Flyers' and Islanders' special teams this season have been a study in contrasts. The PK has been a team strength for Philadelphia, while they've struggled massively (on pace for the worst power play season in franchise history) on the man advantage. The Islanders' power play has been outstanding this season and scorching but hot of late, but the penalty kill has been a disaster.
On Saturday, the Flyers' PK got the better of the Islanders' power play. Philly went 3-for-3 on kills, and held the Islanders without as much as a single shot on goal. The Flyers only had one power play opportunity on Saturday and were unable to score (same as on Wednesday), but generated heavy pressure as it moved along.
It was fitting that Foerster would ultimately score the winning goal in the shootout. He was knocking on the door all night (six shots on goal on 11 shot attempts), including on the lone Flyers power play. Foerster also had a very strong night on the forecheck and in 50-50 battles.
Noah Cates, who almost exclusively played center as a rookie last season and for most of this season (minus a few shifts here and there), was primarily a winger in college hockey and during his initial NHL stint late in the 2021-22 season. On Saturday night, John Tortorella moved Cates to right wing, and it seemed to boost his game after he struggled through most of the season's first 20 games. Cates was excellent on the forecheck in particular.
Morgan Frost returned to the Flyers' starting lineup after being scratched in each of the three previous games. He'd put together a three-game point streak (2g, 2a) in his last stretch in the lineup before a single down game (apart from four blocked shots) against Vegas resulted in him being banished again to the press box for the eighth, ninth, and 10th times in the first 20 games of of the season.
On Saturday, Frost cranked out a solid game on both sides of the puck. He created three sequences that generated scoring chances. He had three shots on goal, including a high tip that forced Sorokin to make a lightning-fast reaction save to the puck's change of trejectory. Frost worked the half-boards on the lone power play and did it effectively. although there was no payoff. He blocked three shots, was credited with one takeaway (it should have been two) and worked well with various different wingers as the night progressed. He had a 60 percent on-ice Corsi night. Overall, Frost turned in a solid night's work over his 21 shifts and 16:42 of ice time.
Frost's return to the lineup and Cates' move to wing resulted in Bobby Brink being a healthy scratch. Tortorella has established a recent pattern through the season's first 21 games of refusing to play both Brink and Frost -- two smallish playmakers, albeit ones who play two different positions -- on the same night.
Among the 11 games Frost has dressed, Brink has dressed in six (two came while Sean Couturier was out due to injury) and been scratched in five. Ryan Poehling was healthy scratched the other three times but was since promoted in the lineup into a top-nine and then top-six role. In total, in the 19 matches in which the Flyers have had a full complement of healthy forwards available, there have only been four times the Flyers have dressed their two best pure playmakers.
Poehling, who has been indisputably playing well since his lineup promotion, had a strange night on Saturday. He skated all his regular shifts in the first period, and then the opening shift of the second period. There was no apparent injury or anything that happened that would cause a benching.
However, Poehling disappeared from the line rotation until the final three minutes of the second period. He then resumed regular shifts in the third period and was tabbed by Tortorella to skate the first shift of overtime with Owen Tippett. It total, Poehling skated 20 shifts and 12:23 of ice time despite taking only two shifts in the second period.
For more from Saturday's game, see the Postgame 5
Phantoms Conquer Amerks, 5-4
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (9-6-3) ran their point streak to six straight games (5-0-1) as they defeated the Rochester Americans (10-5-2) by a 5-4 score at the PPL Center on Saturday evening.
For sheer entertainment value, Saturday's game was one of the best the Phantoms have played so far this season. From a territorial standpoint, the Phantoms dominated against a very good opponent. The Phantoms massively outshot (49-15) and outchanced the Amerks but trailed by scores of 1-0 entering the second period and 4-3 within the third period. Finally, the Phantoms forged ahead to stay and held Rochester to just three shots on goal in the third period.
Saturday's game was a bonanza for both the Phantoms (3-for-5) and Rochester (2-for-4) powerplays. It was an even better night for Phantoms rookies and second-year players.
Nineteen-year-old Alexis Gendron, who'd been noticeably struggling of late, returned to the lineup on Saturday for his ninth game of season. He celebrated it with his third and fourth professional hockey goals including a game-winning power play tally at 11:52 of the third period. On the winning goal, after the Phantoms won an offensive left circle faceoff, the Amerks forgot about Gendron. The rookie skated right down slot, took a pass from Ronnie Attard and buried the puck in the back of the net to establish a 5-4 lead the Phantoms never relinquished.
Saturday's game was another stellar night for Phantoms rookie Samu Tuomaala as he registered his third three-point game of the season. On this night, Tuomaala hammered home a power play one-timer from the right slot off a feed from Cooper Marody. The goal gave the Phantoms a very short-lived 2-1 lead (Rochester scored on the next shift) in the second period. Later, Tuomaala set up a pair of goals for regular linemate Tanner Laczynski: one at even strength for a 3-2 lead in the second period and then a third-period goal to tie the game at 4-4.
Laczynski now has six goals and 17 points in 16 games played this season. Tuomaala, who is fourth in rookie scoring leaguewide, is up to 17 points (4g, 13a) in 18 games.
In total, nine different Phantoms players recorded at least one point in Saturday's game. Olle Lycksell racked up seven shots on goal and chipped in two assists. Wade Allison, who may have had his best game of the season the previous night against Providence. had four shot on goal and an assist. Rookie defenseman Emil Andrae made several high-skill passes during the game and got on the scoresheet with the secondary helper on the first Laczynski goal. Marody's feathery pass that set up Tuomaala's one-timer goal was his 10th assist of the season.
Saturday night wasn't one for the goalies. Making his third start (and playing past the first period for just the second time) this season, Felix Sandstrom stopped 11 of 15 shots. Veteran goalie Dustin Tokarski, an ex-Phantom, was bombarded with 49 shots. He stopped 44.
The Phantoms have now completed their November schedule. The team has played well throughout their points streak and probably deserve to be a perfect 6-0-0 during that stretch rather than "just" 5--0-1. Next weekend, the Phantoms face a 3-on-3 gauntlet, with road games against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday and Saturday and then a Sunday afternoon (3:05 pm) road match in Providence.
Saturday's Phantoms starting lineup was as follows:
28 Olle Lycksell - 9 Tanner Laczynski - 27 Samu Tuomaala
29 Alexis Gendron - 91 Elliot Desnoyers - 2 Cooper Marody
17 Garrett Wilson - 22 Rhett Gardner - 19 Wade Allison
10 Evan Polei -13 Brendan Furry - 14 Zayde Wisdom
6 Emil Andrae - 2 Helge Grans
98 Victor Mete - 12 Ronnie Attard
37 Adam Ginning - 3 Adam Karashik
32 Felix Sandstrom
[40 Cal Petersen]