Hockey

NY ISLANDERS: NECESSARY RESET FAILS TO MATERIALIZE AS ISLANDERS FALL 3-2 IN OVERTIME TO FLYERS SATURDAY NIGHT IN PHILADELPHIA By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

Punch the air above you with your fist if you’ve ever accomplished a strenuous task. Now, try catching your breath while failing to complete that strenuous task. Which feels better? 

While you contemplate your answer (which shouldn’t take more than a second) how do you think the Islanders are feeling right now after their 3-2 overtime loss — their fourth straight defeat — to the Philadelphia Flyers in The City of Brotherly Love on Saturday night?

Not far from the Wells Fargo Center is the Philadelphia Museum of Art and right out front is a set of steps more iconic than any other in pop culture history. That’s right, “The Rocky Steps” are within shouting distance of the Flyers’ home arena. If you’ve never tried recreating the iconic scene, well what are you waiting for?

Saturday night, the Islanders started the game looking like a group of overzealous teenagers who dismissively looked at the steps and figured it would be a piece of cake to get from the bottom to the top; only to then realize their folly after a few moments.

Then, 3:38 into the first period, the Flyers executed a give-and-go play that saw Jakub Voracek enter the Islanders’ zone with speed and then pass the puck over to Claude Giroux on the right-wing. Isles defenseman Scott Mayfield was caught in-between trying to choose who to defend, as was Nick Leddy, which created a passing lane for Giroux to exploit by passing the puck back to Voracek, who had gotten behind the defense, for an easy tap-in goal. 1-0 Flyers.

For close to the next 10-minutes of play, the Nassaumen had trouble getting shots on goal, getting control of the puck and even trying to get out of their own zone. In fact, the only shot on goal by an Islanders skater during this timeframe was registered by Kieffer Bellows, who has looked sharp in game action so far this season.

It was at the 13:55 mark that the Flyers once more executed a give-and-go play to go up 2-0 in the game. This time, Brock Nelson and Leo Komarov tried to fly the zone early in an attempt to generate some offense, but they forgot something rather important — the puck!

Philadelphia D-man Ivan Provorov corralled the loose puck and passed it over to James van Riemsdyk, who briefly held the puck at the top of the right face-off circle, before giving the puck to Kevin Hayes, who gave it right back to him. James van Riemsdyk then sent a perfect pass through the slot that Hayes tapped in from the backdoor to put the Flyers up 2-0. 

That was it for the first period in terms of scoring as the Boys from Long Island looked just like the teenagers who were winded and contemplating giving up after barely completing the first section of The Rocky Steps. 

“Didn’t like our start,” said Barry Trotz after the game. “Thought we were too soft. Thought our veteran players made some horrible decisions.”

Then, as if flipping a switch, the Isles came out to start the second period looking more determined and sharper than they had at anypoint since the first period of Thursday’s game against the Capitals, when they scored three-goals. All of a sudden, those Rocky Steps didn’t look so daunting. 

“There is a lot of character in this locker room,” explained Jordan Eberle after the game. “A lot of leadership. A lot of guys that care about each other.”

Jordan Eberle got the Boys from Long Island on the board at 7:31 of the middle period when he one-timed an Adam Pelech pass from the bottom of the right face-off circle past Carter Hart’s glove for the first Islanders’ goal in almost four periods. (First since the first period of their game against the Capitals Thursday night).

Pelech really was the hero on the play as he carried the puck through the Flyers’ zone and controlled it behind the net before dishing it to Eberle for the cathartic one-timer to cut the Isles’ deficit to 2-1.

And just 4:15 after Eberle got the Nassaumen on the board, Scott Mayfield let loose the cannon, as his slapshot from the top of the right face-off circle went untouched through traffic and under Hart’s glove arm for the game-tying goal.

The beginning of the journey up the Rocky Steps wasn’t pretty, nor was the Isles’ start to the game, but by the end of the second period — second section of The Steps — both journeys were looking more and more likely to end with a hand raised in the air.

As the third period — and third section of the Rocky Steps — got underway, the Boys from Long Island looked to continue to build off the momentum of their two-goal second period. And from the get-go, the Isles controlled the pace of play like a boxer trying to close in on a TKO. 

In both cases, it appeared to just be a matter of time. Or so we thought.

But that time didn’t come in regulation as the scorecard remained tied at two and sudden-death overtime was deemed necessary — the first time for the Islanders this season. There would be no split-decision or tie awarded on this night; although, the third period was all Islanders from bell-to-bell, so perhaps that could have an effect on the extra time?

Sadly, it did not. The TKO was delivered at the 3:16 mark (any wrestling fans out there?) of the extra period, however, it was the Islanders who were knocked to the ice (floor) and down for the count. 

Scott Laughton, who had a beautiful breakaway chance turned away by Semyon Varlamov earlier in the overtime, carried the puck into the Isles’ zone before weaving from right to left and shooting the puck past the right pad of Varlamov for the 3-2 Philadelphia victory and sending the Nassaumen to their fourth straight unhappy ending. The elusive victory remained just that for the Isles players, as did the completion of the Rocky Steps for those teenagers. 

Better luck hopefully awaits the challengers — the Islanders — tomorrow (Sunday) as these teams reconvene for the second-half of their back-to-back set. Stay tuned.

GAME NOTES:

This was the Islanders first overtime of the 2020-21 season…Ryan Pulock received a team-high ice-time of 23:53…Matt Martin played in his 700th career NHL game…The Isles went 0-for-4 on the power-play to fall to 5-for-31 on the man-advantage for the season…Scott Mayfield’s second-period goal was the second goal by an Islanders defenseman this season.

NEXT GAME:

Sunday January 31st Islanders at Flyers at Wells Fargo Center at 7pm(EST).

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