The New York Islanders looked very much like a team that was playing its fifth game in eight days in a flat 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
Kevin Hayes recorded both goals for the Flyers as the lone man to beat a very busy Ilya Sorokin, who made 35 saves on 37 shots behind a New York side that largely left him out to dry for most of the day.
“We didn’t have a lot of juice tonight. Plain and simple,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “Mentally, physically, we didn’t have a lot of juice. We didn’t generate enough and we passed up some looks and we were just not really sharp. I’ll attribute it to everyone pushing hard this week.”
This was just the Islanders’ second regulation loss in eight games as they try to keep their razor-thin playoff hopes alive, but a crowded schedule induced by a 13-game season-opening road trip and COVID outbreaks continue to provide hurdles.
“It plays a part. You do your best to recoup,” captain Anders Lee said. “Everyone was fired up and ready to go. Sometimes the legs go and sometimes they don’t… Overall, we didn’t have the pop we needed to pull out an extra one at the end.
Sorokin’s opposite in Flyers netminder Carter Hart stopped 26 of 27 shots for the win, holding the Islanders to one goal or fewer in a game for the first time since Feb. 11.
Casey Cizikas had the most eventful opening 20 minutes of an otherwise pedestrian first period. While the Islanders managed to kill off his 12th penalty in 13 games, the forward rewarded his team with his eighth goal of the season on New York’s third shot of the game 12:50 in — a slapper from the point caroming off the stick of Flyers center Patrick Brown and over Hart.
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The fourth-liner has played like a premier scorer against Philadelphia as three of his eight goals this season have come against the Flyers.
Islanders defenseman Sebastian Aho gift-wrapped an equalizer to the Flyers as a bad turnover — Trotz described it as “catastrophic” — from behind the net came right to Travis Konecny, who sent a quick past to Hayes for a one-timed goal 4:22 into the second period.
Hayes nabbed his second with 5:05 to go in the second on the power play after a hook from Kieffer Bellows when a loose puck fell right to him on the right post, finishing in an empty net and Sorokin out of position.
Had it not been for the Islanders’ netminder, however, the Islanders would have been long out of Sunday’s affair. In the third period alone he robbed a pair of golden Flyers chances — the first a toe save on a Max Willman one-timer before he stacked the pads on a James van Riemsdyk breakaway attempt with eight minutes to go.
Even more of a mental hurdle to contend with was the fact that New York sat two key veterans in winger Cal Clutterbuck and defenseman Andy Greene — both of whom could be traded before the NHL’s deadline on Monday at 3 p.m. ET.
Trotz maintained that it was simply a maintenance day for both players given the busy schedule.
“That’s all it really is,” he said.