Scott Laughton’s redirection from an Ivan Provorov shot 12:20 into overtime lifted the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-3 Game 5 victory over the New York Islanders, allowing them to stave off elimination for another night.
“Gotta get ’em next game,” Islanders veteran forward Josh Bailey said. “Obviously, we would’ve liked to close them out tonight, that wasn’t the case… We’ll come back and make sure we’re ready to go next game.”
As they did in Game 2, the Islanders overturned a 3-1 third-period deficit only to lose it in overtime thanks to goals from Brock Nelson and Derick Brassard within 1:33 of each other inside the final five minutes of regulation.
“We’re obviously disappointed… but full marks to them, they found a way to win it in overtime,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said.
Now with a 3-2 series lead, the Islanders will try to close out the Flyers in Game 6 on Thursday, but the status of star center Mathew Barzal is unknown after he was forced to leave the game in the third period after taking the stick of Claude Giroux near the eye.
The Islanders immediately went into their patented defensive shell at the start anticipating a ceaseless and desperate wave of Flyers offensive attacks.
In the first period alone, Philadelphia outshot the Islanders 11-4 and had a majority of the golden chances, including a post struck on Sean Couturier while trying to redirect a puck into a wide-open net while the Flyers were on the power play within the final five minutes.
If the Islanders had a chance, it came on the counter-attack, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau had the best chance of the frame when he weaved in on Hart during an odd-man rush, but his backhanded deke was stopped by the toe of the Flyers’ netminder.
“We didn’t come out with a great first, we started to get it going as the game went on, but after last game, not good enough to clinch a series,” Nelson said.
The Islanders took advantage of one of their few early opportunities in the second period when Bailey ricocheted a shot from the goal line behind Hart following a scramble in front of the Flyers’ net to give the Islanders the lead 1:20 in.
Staring down the barrel of elimination, the Flyers responded, reeling off two goals in 2:33 during the final five minutes of the second to take the lead.
Giroux’s redirect from a Philippe Myers shot tied things up with 4:25 left in the frame before James van Riemsdyk converted on a 4-on-1 Flyers break to sneak a wrister through Varlamov.
Matt Niskanen made it 3-1 early in the third period when a shot from the point snuck through Varlamov, which looked as though it buried the Islanders for Game 5.
Out of nothing, though, they found some jump in their game, and Nelson’s one-timed wrister from just inside the right dot whizzed over Hart’s shoulder to cut the Islanders’ deficit to one with 4:14 remaining.
Less than two minutes later, with 2:41 left in regulation, Brassard pushed home a wheeling backhanded pass from the opposite post from Cal Clutterbuck to tie things up and force overtime.
“That’s just the character of our team,” forward Jordan Eberle said. “There’s no quit in us… even when you’re down 3-1 with eight or nine minutes left.”
There was no lack of chances in overtime, as both goaltenders came up with vital saves to keep the game deadlocked within the first half of the first overtime period. While Hart made a big save on Devon Toews and a semi-break from Nelson, Varlamov had to make a pair of big stops while getting help from the crossbar, too, on a redirected wrister from the point.
“We had a couple chances in overtime and big saves in key moments turned out to be the difference. I’d like to have the breakaway back,” Nelson said. “That’s hockey.”
“We had some early chances in the overtime, some Grade-A’s that if we score on them, we’re not having this conversation,” Trotz said. “You want to close it out as quick as you can and we couldn’t and that’s on us.”
“Just focus on one game, that’s all we have to do.”