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Flyers at Islanders recap: Huge bounce-back win helps Flyers keep pace in playoff hunt

The Flyers weathered some early pressure and cashed in on their chances as the game went on, getting themselves back on track and helping bring them closer in the standings to the Islanders themselves.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

After a crushing, demoralizing 4-1 loss last Saturday to the division rival Penguins, the Flyers were looking at the possibility of losing much of the goodwill and momentum they'd picked up with the strong play they'd shown in their previous five games. Tonight's game against the Islanders, the last of seven in a row against playoff teams, suddenly loomed larger than ever, especially with the Islanders suddenly having dropped to within the Flyers' sights in the playoff race.

And sure enough, the Flyers did look closer to that team from the previous two weeks, using a strong final 30 or so minutes of the game on the road to take the lead and never look back en route to a huge 4-1 victory in Brooklyn.

The start to the game wasn't quite what the Flyers were looking for, as by the time one minute of game time had elapsed the Islanders had already collected a breakaway chance and a power play opportunity. The Isles continued to pick up chances and control the game's early minutes, while the Flyers had trouble getting looks of their own -- they didn't even get a shot on net until almost halfway through the period. But they did claw back as the frame went on, nearly catching up to the Isles on the shot clock by the time the first period had come to a close.

Things opened up a bit in the second period, with the scoreboard reflecting that. A couple of minutes after a Flyers power play expired, Jakub Voracek formally announced his return to the ice as he retrieved his own pass off the boards and made a slick pass to Nick Cousins right in front of Thomas Greiss. Cousins would tip the puck in and the Flyers would pick up the first goal 2:24 into the period.

That lead was short-lived, though, as the tide started to turn the Islanders' way in the minutes that ensued. A defensive zone breakdown allowed Kyle Okposo to collect the rebound on a point shot, then pick up his own rebound on that attempt and score on Steve Mason before anyone could get a stick on the puck near the crease. The few shifts after that were largely played in the Flyers' zone, as the visitors were left scrambling trying to cover in their own zone and relying on Steve Mason to bail them out.

Philadelphia would eventually calm things down a bit, but it wasn't until the tail end of a penalty kill that they were finally able to cash in on chances. Mere seconds after a Brandon Manning cross-checking penalty had expired (thanks in large part to a fantastic Steve Mason save), an Andrew MacDonald clear up the boards bounced off of the official at the red line, slowing it down enough for Manning -- fresh out of the penalty box -- to pick it up and carry it into the Islanders' zone. Manning ripped a slapshot from the top of the circle and into the top-right corner of Griess' net, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead and tallying his first NHL goal in the process. The Flyers would hang on to carry that lead into the second intermission.

A carry-over power play to begin the third period wasn't cashed in on, but the Flyers would double their lead less than five minutes into the frame. A pass from Michael Raffl while falling down gave Sean Couturier the puck right in front of Greiss, and a fantastic move by Couturier moving to Greiss' right down near the crease opened up some space for a pass to Sam Gagner. Gagner would make no mistake there and the Flyers would take a 3-1 lead.

And with a two-goal lead, the Flyers continued to trade chances and shots with the Islanders, with Mason continuing to keep the orange and black's lead from slipping. A Claude Giroux empty-net goal in the game's final minute sealed the win.

NOTES:

* Brandon Manning's goal was the first in his NHL career, in his 66th career NHL game. His goal was also assisted by two defensemen (MacDonald and Mark Streit), meaning three defensemen got together to collect points on a single goal. Rare occurrence!

* The penalty kill was fantastic again, killing off all three Islanders power plays, and was another big reason that the Flyers didn't fall behind during the rough patches that they had in the first and second periods.

* This capped off, as mentioned, a seven-game stretch against six teams in the playoff race, as the Flyers conclude that stretch with a 5-1-1 record. Exciting!

* With the win, the Flyers move back to within one point of Detroit with a game in hand. More interestingly, they now sit within three points of these very Islanders. Equal games played between the two teams, but boy, is that last game of the season in Brooklyn suddenly looking interesting or what?

* Still don't know why there's a car behind the boards in Barclays Center.

Questions to Answer:

  1. The Flyers were a total wreck in their own zone their last time out. How do they look there tonight? Certainly not perfect. The first eight or so minutes were rough, and there was a bad stretch in the middle of the second period as well. But it was a definite improvement -- closer to what we'd come to expect from this team in the previous month.
  2. Jakub Voracek was used in bottom-6 minutes in the loss on Saturday -- does Hakstol give him a more typical workload tonight? Still not quite up to where he probably should be, but we definitely saw more of him tonight than we did on Saturday, and his outstanding play on the Flyers' first goal suggests he's pretty close to back.
  3. How does Sean Couturier do against John Tavares' line after a tough go against Sidney Crosby and co. on Saturday? Coots spent a little over half of his 5-on-5 ice time against Tavares and fought him to a draw in possession. Kept the star center off the scoreboard in the process, so you have to feel pretty good about his performance tonight.
  4. How's Steve Mason fare in his first game post-Neuvirth injury? Mason was excellent, and his play in those aforementioned rough defensive stretches are the biggest reason the Islanders never held a lead in the game. Have to think he'll start again tomorrow.
  5. The Isles are coming off a pair of road losses, and a loss tonight would almost put the Flyers within striking distance of them in the standings. How do they look tonight? They started out the game pretty strong but seemed to wane a bit as it went on. Fairly disappointing performance for them, given that they basically could have taken the Flyers out of their rearview mirror in the playoff picture and instead now have them breathing down their necks.

Comment of the Night:

To Manning

Congrats man! Good job! Only 15 more to go to catch Ghost. You can do it.

Signed,
Flyers Fans

Back at it tomorrow in Columbus. Go Flyers.