PHILADELPHIA — Frans Nielsen didn’t sugarcoat it.
“I don’t remember us playing this bad,” he said. “It’s been a long time. We definitely didn’t deserve the two points.”
Well, the Islanders got those two points, grabbing the extra one with Kyle Okposo’s goal in the shootout that gave them a 4-3 win over the Flyers Tuesday night in a game that was pretty much the opposite of what their game plan intended to be.
Outside of Nielsen’s two goals, the second of which made it 3-1 Islanders at 1:14 of the second period and chased Flyers goaltender Steve Mason, the only noteworthy item was Jaroslav Halak’s magic act. He made a career-best 43 saves, 30 of them in the first two periods, as he seemed to be the only Islander intent on prolonging what is now an eight-game point streak (6-0-2).
Even after Ryan White’s goal from the slot at 4:09 of the second cut the Isles lead to 3-2 and after Claude Giroux’s one-timer banked off Nick Leddy and behind Halak at 2:02 of the third, the Islanders goaltender hung tough.
He made three ridiculous saves with 9:17 to play, first stopping Michael Del Zotto’s ripper, then two rebounds from Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, the last two while sitting on his behind in his crease.
He stopped another flurry off the ensuing faceoff then had Bellemare’s try with an open net bank off Travis Hamonic’s head and go out of play.
All in all, the theft of two points belonged to Halak. “It was all Jaro out there,” Nielsen said. He had an assist on Brock Nelson’s power-play deflection in the first and Leddy had a pair of assists, but there were few other positives. John Tavares registered just one shot attempt and now has two points in seven games.
The Isles’ fourth consecutive overtime was as ugly as the previous three, with only one shot on goal and a power play negated by their second overtime penalty in four games for too many men on the ice.
But Okposo scored a nifty shootout goal past former Islander Michal Neuvirth and Halak, unsurprisingly, stopped all three Flyers tries to keep his team moving up the Metro Division standings.
“We battled through it,” Jack Capuano said. “That second period was probably one of the worst periods we’ve played. In close games, you’ve got to find a way.”
They navigated through the third period and OT without Cal Clutterbuck, who left after the second with an upper-body injury. Capuano mixed and matched his remaining 11 forwards, not that they needed the continuity — the Isles had only 26 shots in the game, though their best chances came after the Flyers tied it in the third.
Neuvirth turned aside Casey Cizikas’ breakaway try and a pair of hard shots by Okposo in the third. “I thought we played pretty good in the third,” Halak said. “We had chances to win it in regulation.”
Halak exorcised a demon or two in the Wells Fargo Center, where he allowed an ugly goal in the closing seconds of Game 80 last year to give away a costly point or two. Now it’s his teammates that need to forget Tuesday’s brutal performance that somehow ended in victory.
“We’re happy with the two points, we’re not happy with the way we played,” Hamonic said. “Put it in the vault and move on.”