By Lenn Robbins
Barry Trotz doesn’t need any reminders about how difficult it is to close out a Stanley Cup Playoff series. But he and the Islanders are getting one.
Having already failed once to close out the Flyers, the Islanders threw everything in the tank at top-seeded Philadelphia and they came up short – again. The Flyers scored at 15:03 of the second overtime to beat the Islanders, 5-4, Thursday night and force a Game 7 Saturday night in Toronto.
“They’re always the hardest games,” Trotz told reporters earlier this week. “Going into the series I think everybody was thinking it might be a pretty long one – I thought it was anyways.”
He can’t be happy to be correct.
Ivan Provorov was the beneficiary of some bad luck for the Islanders. Scott Mayfield had his stick break giving the Flyers an advantage. Provorov shoved it past Semyon Varlamov at 15:03 of the second overtime
It matters not that the Islanders outshot the Flyers, 51-31, outhit them, 73-64, or that they had a 3-1 lead in this series. It comes down to one fateful game. The Islanders haven’t advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals since 1993. If they don’t advance to face the Tampa Bay Lightning, it will be a long and painful off-season for the Islanders
After turning in two of their worst performances of the playoffs in Games 4 and 5, the Islanders played with intensity and pace. They rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take leads of 3-2 and 4-3. Varlamov probably would like to have the Flyers’ second and third goals back.
It remains to be seen if the Islanders can muster another dominating effort like they did in Game 6 because that’s what it will take to win a Game 7. Philadelphia was bolstered by the return of forward Oskar Lindblom who was diagnosed with bone cancer in December and completed his treatment in early July.
Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault has twice rallied teams from 3-1 playoff deficits to win the series. He accomplished the feat with the Rangers in 2015 when they rallied to beat Trotz’s Washington Capitals team. Trots knows how hard closing out a series is
“You want to close it out as quick as you can,” said Trotz.