Game 5 time folks! Tonight was win or go home time for the Flyers, as they looked to build on their Game 4 strengths and pick up a win to keep their post-season alive.
The first period saw the Flyers coming out with some definite jump, dominating early with some sustained offensive zone time, picking up some close chances and the early edge in shots. It was a good start, but blocked shots were the story for the Islanders, so that Flyers remained shut down. Things got interesting just past the midway point of the period, when Travis Konecny took a holding penalty at the 12 minute mark and sent the Islanders to the power play. The good news is that the Flyers’ penalty killers kept them pretty well shut down, and then Brock Nelson interfered with Tyler Pitlick and swiftly ended their power play, and would give the Flyers their own chance on an abbreviated power play. It was a good look, which saw Sean Couturier ring a shot off the post, but still they were kept off the board. The Islanders ended the period on the power play, as Derek Grant took a tripping penalty. It was a few quick chances and Carter Hart bailed them out, and the Flyers managed to hold on until the first intermission.
Still on the penalty kill to start the second period, and gang, it did not go well. With the Flyers failing to get the puck cleared, things were looking dicey, and it seemed only a matter of time before things went sideways. It was Tyler Pitlick pushed into the net and Mathew Barzal and Ivan Provorov parked in the crease as well, and it made it all but impossible for Hart to stop the shot on making its way on net. Barzal got credit for the goal, and the Islanders had the lead. Alain Vigneault challenged the goal but it stood, and the Islanders got another chance on the power play, but mercifully, they killed that one off successfully.
The Flyers challenged for goaltender interference but the goal stands. pic.twitter.com/EOfeHgG7Lb— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 2, 2020
The Flyers got into a bit of trouble after that, getting hemmed into their own zone and bleeding some good chances for the Islanders, but they were able to weather the storm. Held overwhelmingly to the outside with their shots and not getting much traffic in front, it’s a recipe to get frustrated, but the Flyers buckled down and stayed patient and it paid off. With Philippe Myers firing a shot in from the point, Claude Giroux was in position for a fly-by defection, beating Varlamov to get the Flyers on the board. And they weren’t done yet! Inside the final three minutes of the period, James van Riemsdyk got a chance on the rush and he put the Flyers up by one heading into the second intermission.
The Flyers were looking to keep their momentum rolling into the third period, but it was going to be a difficult road for them, as just 50 seconds into the period, Scott Laughton was whistled for interference and the Islanders went back to the power play. The good news is they killed the penalty, but perhaps the bad news is that they did it without Sean Couturier, who wasn’t on the bench to start the period.
And exactly as we all predicted, the Flyers got another chance when Kevin Hayes forced a turnover, got the puck to Travis Konecny, who fed it to Matt Niskanen for a shot that beat Varlamov and put the Flyers up 3-1. This was also his first goal of the playoffs.
The Islanders rallied from there, and while the Flyers were able to keep them pretty well contained for a while, they couldn’t shut them down completely. With just about four minutes left in the third, Brock Nelson sent in a laser on Hart and got the Islanders back within one, and they weren’t done yet. With a defensive zone faceoff, the Flyers couldn’t clear the puck, and it was Derick Brassard to beat Hart and tie things up. The Islanders got a few more chances in the last few minutes of the period, but the Flyers held them off, and to overtime we went.
Hayes got the first good chance for the Flyers of the period off a feed from Konecny on the rush, and then Konecny got a chance of his own on the other side of the faceoff, but neither would go, and the Islanders came right back with a chance of their own, and Hart had to make a huge save to keep them alive, and already this one was wide open. After a few more chances at even strength, the Flyers finally got themselves a proper chance on the power play, as Robert Hagg drew a tripping penalty on Matt Martin. It’s probably not much of a surprise that nothing came of that power play attempt. So it goes. Back to even strength.
The Flyers kept their heads down, and they got another lucky play to win it—this time it was Ivan Provorov with the shot from the point deflected in by Scott Laughton. Game 6, here we come.
1. Carter Hart
It has to be Hart with the first star on this one. He wasn’t perfect in this one, but the Islanders gave him a lot of trouble, and if he hadn’t been on, it’s easy to see a scenario where things ended very differently. He kept this game from getting away from the Flyers, and that’s huge. In overtime alone he had to be really sharp and make a handful of difficult saves to keep the game alive. He did exactly what the team needed from him tonight, and in short, they could not have won this one without him.
2. Claude Giroux
At long last! Giroux picked up his first goal of the playoffs in this one, as well as an assist on the overtime winner, and overall just really saw his offensive game picking up. The scoring touch was nice, but overall he had a pretty solid, complete game to compliment it. But, you know, the goal really needed to happen so that’s what we’re focusing on. The Flyers were going to need their big guns to step up if they wanted to win this one, and Giroux did just that.
3. Scott Laughton
And finally, our overtime winner. It’s been an up and down series for Laughton, but he had a strong game tonight, and it really felt like he deserved to pick up the winning goal. With Couturier missing the third and overtime periods, Laughton jumped up to take many of what would have been his shifts, and he did well in those matchups. He was asked to rise to the occasion in this one, and boy did he ever do that.
Two big questions
1. Can the Flyers score more than two goals?
They did! Offense has been stingy in this series, to say the least, so the bar for production has been pretty low. But! The Flyers have managed to clear it in this one and managed what has at times seemed like a monumental feat, and scored four goals in one game. This feels... good? I’d almost forgotten what this felt like.
2. Can the Flyers stave off elimination?
Yes! They did it! It wasn’t a perfect game, and they probably should have won this one in regulation, but they still took care of business and were able to force a Game 6. They got their offense going, finally, and it was some of the big and perhaps unexpected names chipping in, and it was an exciting turn of events. The series isn’t over yet, gang! We’ll see you again on Thursday.