Flyers
The Flyers outplayed the Islanders, no doubt about it. But Anthony Beauvillier got the last laugh for the visitors with the OT winner. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

They deserved and needed to win, but with a little bit of luck, maybe tonight will be remembered for providing something far more valuable. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 2-1, in overtime, to the New York Islanders. They drop another three-game series with a divisional rival, but at least they got three points instead of two (against Pittsburgh) or zero (against Washington). Don’t let the scoreboard fool you; the Flyers dominated this game, playing their most complete game against not Buffalo in 2021.

After kicking off Saturday’s game with one of their ugliest periods of the season, the Flyers pulled a full 180 in terms of their process tonight. Especially at the start. Philadelphia took the first nine shots of the game, and after a brief slump following a Travis Konecny roughing penalty, got back to work. Konecny’s line had an outstanding shift shortly after TK exited the box, and Nolan Patrick was denied on two breakaways; one less than three minutes in, the other with less than two minutes left. Only a dominant performance by red-hot rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin kept Philly off the scoreboard. Brian Elliott got the job done in the opening period as well, though not quite as cleanly.

@TFordRoberton’s reply to this Tweet (“It’s called cutting down the angle”) is easily top-ten in Twitter history.

After an early Flyers power-play, the second period turned into an offensive struggle. Both teams had a tough time getting pucks through to the net as the game fell into the defensive-style the Islanders hypnotize almost everyone into. That isn’t to say there weren’t any chances, of course. The Flyers had a couple of odd-man rushes, but a 2-on-1 and even a 3-on-1 fizzled out without a shot. Oliver Wahlstrom hammered a loose puck right off the crossbar. Moments later, Justin Braun flipped that garnered the same result. But offense definitely certainly came more sporadicly in the second.

In order to break the ice (no pun intended), the Flyers needed to get greasy. Claude Giroux, who barely played received load management in the first, stepped out from below the goal-line with possession. The captain’s pass caromed off Oskar Lindblom’s skate for his first goal in front of Flyers fans in far too long, giving Philly the all-important opening goal.

And the only goal of the period, as it turned out. As is becoming typical, the Flyers played pretty solidly the rest of the period, only to nearly throw it away on a brainfart turned Brock Nelson breakaway. But Nelson missed wide short-side, the Flyers didn’t let the mistake snowball, and intermission arrived with the score still 1-0.

Yet despite all of the Flyers’ dominance, the Islanders kept hanging around. Generating a 27-10 shots on goal edge was either going to lead to a blowout or only capitalizing once was going to cost the Flyers. Unfortunately, the latter came true first. Oliver Wahlstrom made our Emma Brown look smart and me sad, somehow stashing a loose puck on a wild scramble to the back of the net. It was nearly identical to Jordan Eberle’s 2-0 goal Saturday and a similar third-period equalizer scored by Boston’s Brad Marchand earlier in the year. His third in his last four goes for his second game-tying third-period goal of the “series.”

Because of eleven seconds of carry-over Flyers power-play time, literally all of overtime was 4-on-4. It was a chore to watch compared to the usual high-thrilling 3-on-3. It was certainly a nice reprieve for the Islanders, who were 0-3 in OT entering this game. And sure enough, Anthony Beauvillier took advantage of a sloppy Joel Farabee/Shayne Gostisbehere mishandle, beating Ivan Provorov around the net and Elliott to the near post, depositing a wrap-around to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for the Islanders.

This is no doubt a frustrating loss, but thankfully for all of the different reasons as some of their other frustrating losses in March. The Flyers played a strong 60-minute effort, never letting up for longer than a shift or two. The Flyers held the Islanders to just 19 shots on goal, nearly doubling that number by taking 37 of their own. They held over 58% of the 5-on-5 expected goals. They had a 2-1 penalty differential and all of the game’s five odd-man rushes. Elliott played pretty well, holding an opponent to less than three goals for the first time in March. And yet they couldn’t come away with the victory. What else can they do?

Answer: this again. The best-case scenario (other than guaranteeing a playoff birth) would the Flyers can find a way to bottle up this type of play and unleash it over the last month and a half of the season. Of course, that’s the hard part. This game had the shiny shot and chance differentials and a relative lack of mind-numbing mistakes. I’m actually more encouraged by it than most of their wins this month.

The Flyers weren’t perfect, of course, but no team is. Neither was Elliott, but he definitely gave them a shot to win. They got goalied. Happens to everyone. But it won’t happen every night. The Flyers may have lost the battle, but it actually feels like they’re a (small) step closer to winning the war. Though with time winding down, they’d be advised to run with this for a while. This is one opportunity they have to take advantage of.

Lindies

Sean Couturier returned to the Flyers lineup tonight but didn’t seem to be 100%. Coots missed Saturday’s contest with a hip injury and was labeled day-to-day before getting the green light. Hopefully, a good night’s sleep will get him closer to full strength before tomorrow night’s tilt.

As was expected, Nate Prosser took a seat after a nightmare performance Saturday, with Shayne Gostisbehere replacing him and jumping right back to the top pair. Speaking of D pairs, I finally got my wish with an Erik Gustafsson-not Justin Braun or Robert Hagg pairing (he played with Phil Myers tonight). My reward? Exactly 75% Corsi and just a tick under that in xG% at 5-on-5 for the duo. I’m around anytime you need me, AV.

In fairness, the Flyers aren’t the only team Ilya Sorokin has goalied lately. The Russian rookie has won his last eight starts, posting a gaudy .944 save percentage and posting two shutouts in the process. I think this kid’s going to be annoying to face for a while.

Alex Lyon once again dressed as backup tonight, giving Carter Hart (who will start tomorrow, per the team) the night off. With how poor Elliott and Hart have played in March (entering tonight, they were tied for worst in March with a .821 save percentage, min. 3 games played), I actually wanted Lyon to get the nod tonight. The odds are he wouldn’t have played better than Elliott did in this one, but I wonder if he gets a look if Moose or/and Hart can’t find their A-game soon.

Every single Flyer registered at least one shot on goal tonight. Surprisingly leading the way was Justin Braun with five, tying a season-high; he also had five shots on January 19 against Buffalo.

When you tuned in to tonight’s game, you shouldn’t have expected a lot of power-play goals. The Flyers PP is just 1 for 13 against the Islanders this season, and New York’s man advantage is just 2 for its last 21. Sure enough, the man-advantages went a combined 0-for-3 tonight.

The Islanders didn’t take a shot on goal for about eleven minutes after the Wahlstrom goal, as the Flyers refused to give up another rapid-fire goal. Go figure that shot was an A+ chance for Leo Komarov, but Elliott came up with a huge stop.

Six Flyers prospects will play in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament. Good luck to all of them in the tournament; may they go as far as possible until their path crosses with Notre Dame (go Irish!).

Tonight’s loss drops the Flyers to a .500 winning percentage (15-11-4, or 15 wins and 15 losses) for the first time all season. Hopefully they get right back above it tomorrow.

3 Stars

3rd: Oskar Lindblom – Goal (5), 3 Hits

2nd: Anthony Beauvillier – Goal (4), 4 Shots

1st: Ilya Sorokin – .973 SV% (36 Saves/37 Shots), 1 GA on 2.21 xGA

Next

NYI – 3/25, 7 PM @ BOS (16-8-4, W2) – NHL Network

PHI – 3/23, 7 PM vs. NJ (11-14-4, W1) – NBCSN

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