The revenge battle between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders played out as anticipated. Overtime was needed to decide a winner.
Back on home ice for the first time in five games, the Philadelphia Flyers exacted revenge against the New York Islanders, but it wasn’t easy. Heading into this clash, the Flyers had everything to prove against their inter-divisional rival. Alain Vigneault implemented a bold strategy to raise the physicality and intensity, sending a message to the entire locker room. Travis Konecny was a healthy scratch, which meant Samuel Morin entered the lineup. That decision punctuated the result of this game.
Looking for their model identity, Philadelphia was without their brand new folk-hero, Nate Prosser. To boost shots on goal from the blue-line, Erik Gustafsson bumped to the third pair as Philippe Myers returned.
The Islanders used their speed to dazzle the Flyers, taking advantage of their scoring opportunities, but AV’s men took heaped the pressure on Semyon Varlamov, making a home in front of the crease. Here’s how it all unfolded tonight from the Wells Fargo Center.
Flyers come out swinging
Connor Bunnaman took the opening draw, providing Philadelphia with their first stint in the offensive zone. Morin nearly had a plus-one rating on the stat sheet because after his first shot on goal, the Flyers scored. Scott Laughton and Claude Giroux forced their way in close. Quick passing worked wonders as Jakub Voracek tipped Giroux’s pass for the first goal of the night. Another high percentage scoring opportunity converted in Vigneault’s system.
Over the first twenty minutes, Vigneault showcased a masterclass and complete understanding of winning hockey. His instincts and gameplan outmatched Barry Trotz. As the hits kept coming in, the shots and goals followed. Kevin Hayes tallied the second of the game via assists from Ivan Provorov and James van Riemsdyk. Philadelphia controlled the tempo without sacrificing speed due to a change in the lineup.
James van Riemsdyk is looking to be worth the investment through the first nine games of 2020-2021. Forget his expensive contract for a moment. He has been stunning during both even-strength and powerplay situations. His value could be worth a look by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. Either way, it is all mutually beneficial for the Flyers.
Islanders strike back
Through the midway point of the second period, the Islanders began to navigate some momentum away from Philadelphia. The Flyers had to serve a penalty after a roughing minor by Joel Farabee. Soon after that, Philadelphia seemed to get back on track. The Islanders moved the puck behind the back of Carter Hart for most of the period. Their first goal was a product of a backdoor one-timer set-up from Adam Pelech, scored by Jordan Eberle.
Trotz was able to employ a strategy for his forwards to maximize the time of possession. With that came puck movement, opening up Hart in the net. The Flyers played contrastingly worse than they did in the first period. Carrying a two-goal lead into the second, Scott Mayfield scored the equalizing goal. Once again, Philadelphia had to dictate the pace out of the tunnel in the third period.
In previewing this game, I mentioned how the Flyers could mitigate the impact of Mathew Barzal. In explanation, Philadelphia needed to draw penalties and play a disciplined brand of hockey. The philosophy taken in the second period maximized Barzal, placing him on the scoring sheet. On Mayfield’s goal, Barzal notched an assist. The Islanders’ pace is dictated through Barzal, especially after Anders Lee left for the locker room late in the period.
Slipping away in the third
It was paramount that the Flyers began the third period with a rekindled fire. Giroux served an early penalty for tripping, one he was audibly angry about. None other than Barzal drew the penalty, which was exactly what Philadelphia could not afford. No harm was done as the penalty-kill unit continued to do its job. The Islanders continued to dictate the pace of the game, however.
More than halfway through the third period and the Flyers could only muster one shot on goal. It wasn’t until twelve minutes past that Philippe Myers tallied another shot on goal from the point. The Islanders were able to adjust, exploiting the lack of firepower with Konecny out of the lineup as a healthy scratch.
Late in the period, Joel Farabee left the ice doubled-over. He made it to the bench in what looked like discomfort but stayed with his linemates. It was indictive of the last two periods of hockey. For how physical Philadelphia was in the first period, they were on the receiving end in the second and third. Despite being outshot in the third period, 11-4, this game went to overtime.
Flyers pull the Rabbit from the Hat
The Flyers found a way to win in the clutch. In three-on-three hockey, they produced shots on goal! Sometimes it is about winning five minutes of hockey. Scott Laughton had the game-winner on his stick. For the first time since Vigneault has coached in Philadelphia, the Flyers defeat the Islanders, 3-2.
Up Next for the Flyers
Tomorrow, we’re right back at the Wells Fargo Center as the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Islanders for the second time in as many days. All the action can be viewed on NBC Sports Philadelphia at 7pm.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre