Islanders still can’t put away Flyers, drop a 2OT decision to face Game 7

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Islanders
Sep 3, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart (79) stops a shot by New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) during the overtime period in game six of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Flyers have this overtime thing down pat.

For the second-straight game and for the third time this series, they came out on top during an overtime affair, this time it took two extra periods, as defenseman Ivan Provorov’s shot with 1:18 left from the point beat Semyon Varlamov to give the Flyers a 5-4 win over the New York Islanders.

With it comes a Game 7, and another missed opportunity for the Islanders to close out Philadelphia despite outshooting them 53-31.

“We had plenty of chances. I thought we had a pretty good game. I didn’t like some of our decisions,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “But we had lots of chances to win that hockey game. That’s the tough part about the game and the playoffs. It can change, you can dominate, get lots of chances… you break a stick and they come down and score. That’s playoff hockey. There’s stuff that’s not in our control and you have to battle through.”

It was a night of mistakes and missed opportunities, the final one coming when Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield broke his stick in the Flyers’ zone to start Philadelphia’s rush, which led to their game-winner.

“Frustration is honestly about 30 seconds. Nothing we can do. Game 6 is over, but we moved on,” center Mathew Barzal — who scored in Game 6 after being a game-time decision — said. “Unfortunate play, but we move on. It’s a winner-take-all Game 7. We turned the page in 10 minutes. Had a nice team talk, moved on.”

While the Islanders had the better start in terms of controlling the play — which was a point of stress in their previous two games — the Flyers jumped out with two early goals on their first three shots.

Tallies by Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk just 1:36 apart put Philadelphia up a pair with 8:08 left in the first before the Islanders pulled one back just as their power play expired with Derick Brassard tipping in a slap pass from Devon Toews on the left post.

“Those are tougher games to play when you’re on the other end getting a lot of shots,” Trotz said of Varlamov’s start. “They scored two out of the first three and I let him battle through.”

The Islanders’ goal was created by Brock Nelson, who threaded a pass from behind the net right to the tape of the primary assist man in Toews.

That momentum carried right into the second period as the Islanders reeled off two goals in 1:42, the second aided by another lost Flyers challenge.

Matt Martin tucked away his fourth goal of the playoffs on a rush to continue his unexpected scoring ways. While he snapped a wrister off a Flyers defenseman, Casey Cizikas was tripped into the crease, prompting Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault to challenge for goalie interference.

The unsuccessful challenge put the Islanders right on the power play and they made the Flyers pay. Anders Lee cannoned a rebound off Carter Hart’s pads from a close-angled attempt by Barzal just 3:06 into the second to give the Islanders the lead.

Philadelphia would answer when a shot from the point by Nic Aube-Kubel hit off the back of Michael Raffl right in front of Varlamov’s goal. The puck came down right to the Flyers forward’s stick, who slotted it past an unknowing Islanders goalie.

But the Islanders would retake the lead with just 29 seconds left in the second when Barzal, who was caught out on a long shift in the Flyers’ zone, wheeled around after picking up a forced turnover by Brassard at the left dot and sniped a wrister over the shoulder of Hart, off the post and in.

“I thought he had really good legs and he was dangerous and he scored a big goal,” Trotz said of Barzal. “After two periods, that was a huge one for us. I thought we came out in the third and we were on top of it.”

They had a chance to put the game away with a power-play opportunity midway through the period, but their No. 1 power-play unit did nothing for more than three-quarters of it, leading to Toews’ brutal turnover at the blue line which sent Scott Laughton in alone on Varlamov. The Islanders’ netminder stood no chance, as the Flyers’ hero from Game 5 deked to his backhand and roofed it into the back of the net.

“Those are just puck management things that we have to do better,” Trotz said of Toews’ turnover. “We probably could’ve had a little more poise there.”

A majority of the two overtime periods remained a stalemate until Provorov’s winner, with the Islanders mounting 11 total shots on Hart’s goal during extra time. 

“We had to bury one,” Lee said. “Give Hart a lot of credit, he had a phenomenal game.”