The Philadelphia Flyers, who were without reigning Selke Trophy winner Sean Couturier, faced off against the New York Islanders out in Uniondale to begin the second half of their schedule and to close out their four-game road trip on Saturday night. The Flyers had a very rocky opening period that they could not overcome and fell to the Islanders 6-1 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliesum.
The opening minutes of the game had some good pace to it from both teams, but the Islanders would take control quickly. New York’s Adam Pelech would draw a hooking penalty on Travis Konecny just 5:43 into the first period, and the Islanders would take advantage rather fast. 27 seconds into the power play, Jean-Gabriel Pageau put New York up 1-0 after an Oliver Wahlstrom shot bounced over to the open Pageau, who beat the glove of Carter Hart.
Not even two minutes later, the Islanders found the back of the net again as Jordan Eberle picked the puck out of a net-mouth scramble and rocketed it into the open cage for a 2-0 Islanders lead. The goals from Pageau and Eberle were separated by just 1 minute and 50 seconds.
Despite their efforts, the Flyers could not hold off the Islanders’ momentum. Towards the halfway mark of the period, Casey Cizikas forced a turnover on Nate Prosser at the Philadelphia blueline and recovered the puck. Cizikas skated in from the left side and fired a wrist shot past Hart to make it 3-0 in favor of New York with 9:57 still to play in the first period.
New York still had their foot on the gas, and Cizikas would rack up his second goal of the frame after a hard forecheck by the Islanders that led to Thomas Hickey delivering a spectacular cross-ice feed to Cizikas. He deposited the puck into the top right corner of the net to give the Islanders a 4-0 advantage on his second goal of the evening. Altogether, New York scored four goals in 9 minutes and 14 seconds.
Philadelphia finally showed some signs of life after Cizikas’ 2nd goal, as 10 seconds after the faceoff Oskar Lindblöm of all people took the liberty of fighting to try and flip the momentum in this game. Lindblöm, who was participating in his first NHL fight, took on Oliver Wahlstrom in the tilt. Wahlstrom would record the takedown on Lindblöm, but Philadelphia would try to build on their forward’s efforts.
Joel Farabee would kick off the Flyers’ comeback attempt with a nice wrister off the rush after Scott Laughton forced an Islander turnover in the neutral zone and Farabee retrieved the loose puck. Laughton jumped into the play to make it a 2-on-1 chance, and Farabee beat New York netminder Ilya Sorokin for his 13th goal of the year to cut the lead to 4-1 with 2:08 remaining. That score is how the first period would end.
The Flyers would come out for the second period a bit more defensively sound, as they would tighten their game up and not allow any goals to the Islanders. Despite some extensive offensive zone time, New York would only muster seven a hots on net in the period, fewer than their 13 from the previous one.
Philadelphia could not capitalize however, as despite having two power play opportunities and an 11-7 SOG edge in the second period, they could not find the back of the net. The teams would leave the ice for the second intermission in the same fashion as they did for the first, as New York still maintained a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes.
While the second period offered us a better showing, the third period would not give us the same luxury. The Flyers held off New York as long as they could, but another turnover by Nate Prosser from behind his own net found the stick of Islanders forward Brock Nelson. Nelson dished the puck over to Anthony Beauvillier on a mini 2-on-1 and Beauvillier easily beat Hart to increase New York’s lead to 5-1 with 10:15 to play in the final frame.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, the Islanders were not done scoring just yet. With just over four minutes to play, Carter Hart tried playing a dump-in up ice from behind his net, but Josh Bailey had other ideas. The Islanders forward skated in front of Hart’s muffed attempt, corralled the puck and shot it past the diving Hart and into the wide open cage, much to Philadelphia’s dismay. Bailey’s gift-wrapped fourth goal of the year gave New York a 6-1 lead with 4:14 left in the third, and that’s how this game would end up closing out on the scoreboard.
- Oskar Lindblöm – Lindblöm was the guy who built up the courage to drop the gloves and try to give his team some life towards the end of the first period. I extremely admire Lindblöm’s efforts considering everything he’s been through, but it also saddens me that of all the players Philadelphia has, the one who has battled through cancer and COVID-19 was the one who had to fight. We know that Oskar is a tough customer who won’t let anything keep him down, but someone else should’ve taken the beating for him on this one
- Joel Farabee – Farabee netted his 13th goal of the season, which ties him with linemate James van Riemsdyk for the team lead. Farabee is now up to 25 points in 28 games this season. The 21 year-old Cicero, New York native has had a tremendous sophomore season for Philadelphia and has continually been one of the Flyers’ best players night in and night out as we cross into the second half of the 2020-21 season.
- Team Defense – Tonight was another night where a collective effort was not there for the Flyers, especially defensively. We saw far too many odd-man opportunities and high-danger scoring chances for the Islanders tonight, and a lot of them came as a result of terrible checking, poor positioning, and plenty of mistakes with the puck. I’m not sure what the root of the problem is, whether it’s an issue with the players or a coaching issue between Alain Vigneault and Mike Yeo, but Philadelphia needs to figure out quick before it’s too late.
- Nate Prosser – Prosser’s mistakes were the most glaring to me tonight. Supposedly a steady “stay-at-home” type defenseman, he looked like he belonged with the Phantoms after this one, along with probably a few others. Prosser was stripped of the puck by Casey Cizikas and couldn’t recover on the 3-0 goal. Prosser was also the one that turned the puck over in the Flyers zone which led to the Islanders’ brief cycle and and Cizikas’ 2nd goal that made it 4-0. He also committed another egregious turnover from behind the Flyers’ net on Anthony Beauvillier’s goal to make it 5-1. The team as a whole looked awful, but Nate Prosser stood out as the absolute worst player for Philadelphia tonight.
- Sean Couturier – Couturier was a late scratch for tonight’s game and was replaced by Michael Raffl in the lineup, and they sure missed their top center tonight. It has been reported only as a lower-body injury as the reason he was scratched, but regardless of what it specifically is we hope Sean is okay and back on the ice soon.
The Flyers return home to Philadelphia at Wells Fargo Center on Monday night as they’ll have an opportunity to redeem themselves against the Islanders in front of their home crowd on Broad Street. Philadelphia still sits 3 points behind the Boston Bruins, who remain in the 4th and final playoff spot in the East Division, and a huge rebound victory on Monday would go a long way in trying to fight back from the outside looking in.