Flyers Fall to Islanders, Further Dimming Playoff Hopes
In a truly critical contest, the New York Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Tuesday night, putting the Flyers 7 points away from the Islanders, who now sit in the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak at Nassau Coliseum.
After the Flyers committed an icing, took a timeout, and failed to get the puck deep when play continued, the Islanders rushed the puck up the other way. Colin McDonald found Michael Grabner streaking down the wing after a pick by Keith Aucoin. Grabner snapped it past starter Steve Mason to give the Islanders the 2-1 lead.
Mason, who got the start in place of incumbent Ilya Bryzgalov, was tested just minutes prior by Kyle Okposo by making a spectacular glove save to keep the score 1-1. He made 28 saves on 31 shots in this game.
Unfortunately for the playoff hopes, the Flyers' inability to come back hurt them here with no sense of urgency or bite. They have only come back in the third period to win twice this season. They may have been down by one in this game, but they did not play as if their season was on the line on this night.
A Flyer turnover and subsequent rush led to a two-on-one late in the third period. John Tavares displayed a pretty move and was denied by a sprawling Mason, but defenseman Erik Gustafsson, sliding to get back into the play, knocked it into the net to put the game out of reach for the Flyers.
The chippy, sloppy and penalty-devoid contest started in the Flyers' favor, but the Islanders continued the physical play to give them the territorial and puck possession advantage throughout the contest. The referees only whistled the teams for a combined three penalties—one of them coming in the waning moments of the game.
The drought of penalties may have affected the game's outcome. What should have been a goaltender interference call on Matt Martin, Brayden Schenn took exception and dropped the gloves with Martin. Additionally, defenseman Oliver Lauridsen was crushed in the corner, leading to no penalty call.
From that point forward, it was all Islanders.
"For some reason, we don't play 60 minutes," captain Claude Giroux said. "We're a good team that can play against any team in the league."
The game started with a rare feat for this year's edition of the Orange and Black. Just seven minutes into the first period, Giroux found a streaking Jakub Voracek who slid a backhand through Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov for his 17th goal of the year.
The goal was reviewed after Nabokov slid back into his net, dislodging it, but the goal stood after a short review.
Matt Moulson responded for the Islanders later in the first after Brad Boyes entered the zone, undressing Kent Huskins with a pretty move. The puck rolled over to Moulson, whose shot ramped off the stick of Bruno Gervais and into the net to tie the game.
Other than the early tally, Nabokov played a solid 60 minute effort, thwarting the Flyers' other 26 shots on goal. He and the Islanders exited the ice to chants of "We want playoffs!" It would be the Isles' first time in the postseason dance since 2007.
Casey Cizikas put the proverbial dagger in the Flyers' season with an empty netter in the closing moments. Now five points out of the final playoff spot with just nine games to go, it may be time to pack it in.
The thousand yard stares, ever present on the bench in the waning moments of the game, spelled out the reality that the 2013 Philadelphia Flyers currently face. They will not be the beacon of success in a city starved for athletic excellence.