PHILADELPHIA - With just under five minutes to go in the second period, it may have looked a bit bleak for the Islanders. They trailed the Flyers by two goals despite allowing only 10 shots on goal through 35 minutes, they brought a three-game losing streak into the Wells Fargo Center and they all watched as Johnny Boychuk, one of their linchpin defensemen, was helped to the locker room after blocking a shot with his left knee.
That does sound bleak, doesn't it? But there was no thought of "what's next?" on the visitors' bench. And with Boychuk in the locker room trying to shake off an immensely painful experience, the Islanders struck for two goals in 1:59.
They eventually pulled out a 3-2 win in the seventh round of the shootout, thanks to unlikely scorer Cal Clutterbuck. He tied the score at 18:47 of the second period with his fifth goal of the season, then converted in the shootout against Steve Mason for a much-needed win, clinched when Jaroslav Halak stopped Sean Couturier in the bottom of the seventh.
"To be completely honest, they had maybe three chances the first two periods. They were good chances and they scored twice, but there was a different feeling on the bench from the last couple games," Clutterbuck said. "If you're down 2-0 and you don't feel like you're touching the puck, that's one thing. The fact is we were playing well, and we all knew it."
Boychuk returned for the third period, just as Matt Martin returned after missing most of the first period when he had his nose broken in a fight with Ryan White 2:11 in. The Islanders continued on in the third as they had in the first two periods, closing off shooting lanes and containing the Flyers' top players. Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux totaled no points and two shots on goal among Philly's 18.
The best chance with the score tied came near the end of overtime, when John Tavares tried to be too cute near the Flyers' blue line and allowed Couturier in on a breakaway. Halak turned that one aside and then stopped six out of seven in the shootout.
Halak also had a scare late in the second when Matt Read's shot caught him high on his chest and a little on his chin.
"It wasn't scary, just a little uncomfortable feeling," he said. "It was a tough game at times, but the guys did a good job not giving up."
Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz opened the scoring off a feed from Vinny Lecavalier at 5:43 of the first. Then Thomas Hickey's untimely pinch allowed a two-on-one and Chris VandeVelde beat Halak at 11:38 of the second. The Flyers had eight shots on goal and led 2-0.
"This is a confident team," Jack Capuano said. "Maybe a couple years ago it would have been different right there. But there was no panic."
Mikhail Grabovski broke through on Mason with a high wrister through traffic at 16:48 of the second and Clutterbuck pounced on a juicy rebound of Brock Nelson's toss on net to tie it.
The Islanders head off to Boston for another difficult test, but with some well-earned relief after snapping their losing streak. This was their third three-game skid of the season. There hasn't been a four-game slide, yet another sign of how improved this team is mentally and skill-wise.
"You lose three straight, it's easy to think about taking a shortcut or cheating to try and break out," Hickey said. "We were consistent tonight, we had a structure and we stuck to it. That's why we got the result we needed."