Time and time again, the Islanders have shown an ability to hit another gear late in games on nights they had otherwise been blasé. It’s why they led the NHL with 11 wins this season when trailing in a game entering Saturday night’s meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers.
And it’s why they were able to do it again on said night at UBS Arena.
The Islanders scored four unanswered goals — including two from Zach Parise and two in a 22-second span from Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier at the start of the third period — to lift New York to a 5-2 victory. It’s a fourth-straight win for the Islanders, which is as many assists as defenseman Ryan Pulock had on Saturday night, while the fledgling Flyers have now lost 10 straight.
“I thought we finished well,” head coach Lane Lambert said. “There was a period maybe in the second where we weren’t as sharp as we wanted to be… I really liked our start to the game and I thought overall it was a good effort.”
Adam Pelech put the Islanders up just 4:33 into the game when a slap shot from inside the left face-off circle whizzed past Flyers netminder Felix Sandstrom.
But any notion that the Islanders would walk away with this one with relative ease was quickly dispelled as the Flyers simply outworked the hosts for a 20-minute spell between the first and second periods.
While the Islanders were held without a shot for the final 10:29 of the first frame — and only mustered two in a 19-minute spell — the Flyers took the lead through goals from Lukas Sedlak (15:27 of the first) and Joel Farabee (9:28 of the second).
Finally getting their first power-play opportunity of the night with 5:18 to go in the second, the Islanders sleepwalked through most of it. But out of nothing, a broken play in the Flyers zone saw a loose puck slide out to Pulock, who found a wide-open Parise cutting toward the left post. After receiving the puck he deked to his backhand and stuffed the puck under Sandstrom and in to tie it up with 3:22 remaining in the second period.
“I had a play the shift before real similar where I tried to chip it five-hole and it didn’t work,” Parise said. “The second time I felt like I had a bit more time to open him up a little bit and just jam away.”
Just 2:57 into the third period, Nelson put the Islanders ahead to spark a three-goal third period, sniping a wrister past Sandstrom for his second goal in as many games.
Beauvillier doubled the New York lead 22 seconds later when he got on the end of a pass from the right boards from Pulock — who also had the assist on Nelson’s goal — and popped it in.
Parise picked up his second of the night when he streaked down the left boards and from a difficult angle, snuck a high wrister over Sandstrom’s shoulder and into the roof of the goal to officially make it a rout.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had one of those,” the 38-year-old Parise joked. “I just wanted to get it high. You know the goalie is going to try and go down… and take away that short side low. I just tried to get it over the shoulder.”
To add further salt to Philadelphia wounds, Flyers forward Nicholas Delauries attempted to jump Alex Romanov with inside four minutes to go in the game after a clean, hard check on Kevin Hayes, which descended into a meleé. Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo pulled Oliver Wahlstrom out of the pile and began throwing punches at the surprised forward — only for Wahlstrom to stabilize and win the bout by some margin.
“I wasn’t even expecting it,” Wahlstrom said. “I saw [Romanov] go down and everyone skated over to see if he was good. I turned around and gloves were in the air. I just had to protect myself. That’s part of the game.”