WRAPUP: FLYERS STYMIED AGAIN, LOSE 3-1 TO ISLES
In a performance reminiscent of the Nov. 21 game in Ottawa, the Philadelphia Flyers played a strong first period on Wednesday night in Brooklyn only to yield a last-minute goal and never recover. The New York Islanders prevailed, 3-1.
A shorthanded goal by Casey Cizikas at the 19:02 mark of the opening period erased an early Flyers' 1-0 lead. New York went ahead to stay at 5:12 of the second period on a seeing-eye goal shot by Kyle Okposo from a short-side angle. New York dominated the rest of the way, enjoying a 27-10 advantage over the final 40 minutes and 15-4 in the third period. Frans Nielsen added a controversial empty-net goal with 1:09 left in the third period.
Claude Giroux finished the night an assist short of a Gordie Howe hat trick; one-timing a power play goal at 3:59 of the first period and fighting Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy on the shift after the Okposo goal. The fight happened partially in retaliation for Leddy boarding Michael Raffl late in the first period and partially as an attempt to stir some emotion in his own team.
The Flyers' captain led -- Giroux doesn't fight often, but that was the perfect time and the right player -- but no one followed apart from Wayne Simmonds fighting Matt Martin seven minutes later. The hoped-for spark on the ice never materialized.
Steve Mason gave the Flyers a chance to win the game, stopping 33 of 35 shots. Islanders counterpart Jaroslav Halak stopped 17 of 18 shots to earn the victory.
On the Giroux goal, the Flyers made quick work of their first power play of the game. Giroux won a right circle draw, and Shayne Gostisbehere and Jakub Voracek played catch with the puck on the right side. Gostisbehere then beat Cizikas up high, and Cizakas wiped out as Gostisbehere went by him and move into the top of the right circle.
Before Cizikas could get back in the play, the puck was quickly rotated to Voracek back to Gostisbehere, who had moved into the center of slot. The rookie defenseman then feathered a pass to Giroux in the left circle, who wasted no time blasting a one-timer past Halak high to the short (blocker) side for his eighth goal of the season.
The rest of the Flyers' five power plays (1-for-5) in the game did not go nearly as well as the first. Philadelphia only had to kill two penalties, succeeding on both.
The game's turning point happened with Leddy in the box for boarding Raffl into the lower portion of the wall. Raffl was OK but, after having seen Scott Laughton (in Ottawa) and Sam Gagner (vs. Carolina) make early exits from the past two games, the Flyers took exception to the Leddy hit. On the ensuing power play, however, the Flyers coughed up a shorthanded goal.
Gostisbehere made an attempted point-to-point pass but there was no one anywhere near the vicinity. Voracek had already moved down the wall. The Islanders picked up the puck and countered. Voracek hustled back and tried to play like a defenseman but was easily beaten to the outside by Cal Clutterbuck. Gostisbehere then moved over from guarding the slot to Mason's left to trying to check Clutterbuck. That left Cizikas all alone on the doorstep of the vacated side. The puck was chipped to Cizikas, who tucked the puck home before Mason could get over.
Instead of doubling their lead or going to the dressing room with a one-goal edge and 50 seconds of carryover power play time, the Flyers found their generally solid first period produce no more than a 1-1 tie. New York came out with a lot more energy in the second period, forechecking much more aggressively than the Flyers were ready or able to handle.
At the 5:14 mark of the second period, the Islanders went ahead. Giroux won a defensive zone back to an open area but none of his teammates helped out to claim the puck. Instead, Okposo outworked everyone else to take possession for New York. Moments later, Okposo wheeled out and cut across laterally just above the goal line as Nick Schultz moved over to try to block him.
What happened next could only be determined on frame-by-frame replays from two different angles.
Mason seemed to have the short side well sealed, yet the puck somehow got past him up high. The frame-by-frame seems to show the puck jumping up softly off the back of Schultz's skate, hitting off the side of the net and then somehow squeezing into the cage.
Mason later deemed the play a "crappy bounce," saying he heard it hit the side of the net before it went in up high. Regardless of what it hit or the element of luck that undoubtedly played a part, it was a bad angle and a bad time to give up a goal.
More or less for the remainder of the game, the Flyers had trouble getting the puck past the red line. When they did manage to do more than a get a one-and-done opportunity and get some offensive zone possession time -- as they did in several early third-period shifts -- their shots got blocked. The Islanders blocked 21 Flyers' shot attempts for the game.
In terms of shot-attempt differentials as a measure of puck possession, the Islanders attempted 65 shots to 48 attempts for the Flyers. Philadelphia had a significant early lead in territorial play but the Islanders closed the gap and increasingly pulled away as the match progressed.
After an early third-period push by the Flyers resulted in little more than a slew of blocked shots, the Islanders took it to the Flyers for most of the final stanza. The neutral zone was bottled up and the shooting lanes closed off in a hurry. In the meantime, Mason gave his team a fighting chance with multiple tough saves, including denying a 4-on-2 rush.
When the Flyers pulled Mason for an extra attacker, they seemed well set up for a scoring chance moments after the Islanders turned the puck over just inside their blueline. However, Nielsen got away with a blatant stick slash that broke Sean Couturier's stick into two pieces in front of the net. Travis Hamonic recovered the puck and passed to Anders Lee. The puck when then sent to Nielsen, who scored from the neutral zone.
While play was moving the other way, Couturier unwisely skated over to argue with referee Gord Dwyer. Giroux picked up on the argument and received a 10-minute misconduct with a stoppage of play for a New York penalty with just six seconds left in the game; too late to make a difference.
As far as the non-call on the stick slash went, the Flyers benefitted last game from a phantom stick-holding call in overtime which set up a four-on-three power play opportunity that ended in a game-winning goal by Gostisbehere. Two nights later, the breaks evened out with a non-call on a clear-cut penalty. That was not what cost the Flyers the game. The Islanders were simply the better team for 41 of the game's 60 minutes and were the deserving winners.
The Flyers continue to rank as the lowest-scoring team in the NHL, averaging a mere 1.73 goals per game. Exiting the loss to the Islanders, the Flyers' streak of not having scored a single even strength goal stands at 257 minutes, 58 seconds of game play.
The Flyers will hold a Thanksgiving morning practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. On Friday, they will play a mid-afternoon matinee with the Nashville Predators at the Wells Fargo Center. From there, the Flyers will head to Manhattan to take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon.