The Philadelphia Flyers have struggled to beat the New York Islanders recently, but you can’t pin that on Scott Laughton as the forward scored the game-winning goal in overtime of tonight’s 3-2 decision. It’s Laughton’s first career regular season OT tally and his second OT tally in the NHL, as he pushed Philly to a victory in Game 5 of these two teams’ 2020 playoff series. Laughton’s two overtime strikes have helped the Orange and Black to three wins against the Islanders in the clubs’ last four meetings. Jakub Voracek and Kevin Hayes scored in regulation for the Flyers, while Carter Hart denied 26 of 28 for the win.
The story of the game was head coach Alain Vigneault’s decision to bench Travis Konecny, who is tied for the team lead in goals with five, in favor of towering blue liner-turned-power forward Samuel Morin in an attempt to send a message to his guys. The message looked to motivate the club out of the gates, but their ability to control the puck diminished over the final 40 minutes of regulation. As for Morin, he had one shot on goal in 5:31 of ice time while the third line consisted of him, Scott Laughton, and Joel Farabee matching with the Islanders’ fourth line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikias, and Cal Clutterbuck. He performed as anticipated in the offensive zone with his physicality and grit (he posted three hits and a blocked shot with little offensive creativity) not making much of a difference this evening while also being out of position on Scott Mayfield’s equalizer in the second frame before riding the pine for the third.
The second storyline of this Saturday for the Flyers is the return of Phil Myers to the lineup, who skipped the team’s last four games due to a fractured rib. This allowed AV to ice possibly his most optimal top four with this current roster with Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere on the top pair and Travis Sanheim with Myers to reunite last year’s high-end second pair. The former QMJHLer had a decent return that featured two shots on goal and one blocked shot to go along with a 63.83 Expected Goals-for percentage with Sanheim at 5-on-5 and a nice pass breakup on Cizikas on an odd-man rush early in the third period. The one complaint about his outing was the fact it looked as though the defensive tandem were lost in coverage on Jordan Eberle’s goal in the middle frame. To make matters worse, Provorov-Gostisbehere had a poor night in terms of controlling the puck, while Erik Gustafsson and Justin Braun paired together is a walking nightmare.
AV’s message to his top guys to wake up was heard, as the Orange and Black came out swinging with their best period of the season. The tandem of Voracek and a beardless Hayes were the benefactors of gorgeous passing sequences that came following a pair of Islanders’ turnovers on their own side of the red line as well as two cross-ice passes to force Semyon Varlamov to move. On top of keeping pressure on the Islanders in their own half of the ice, the Flyers limited the time New York spent in the offensive zone and didn’t ask Carter Hart to prevent any close calls. The captain led by example, as he was flying each shift and forced Mathew Barzal into a stick infraction at the Isles’ blue line just 19 ticks after Voracek’s opening tally. The hosts closed the frame by thriving in another area of concern this year, as they gave the visitors absolutely nothing on their first power play of the affair.
After the Islanders provided offensive pressure for the first half of the middle stanza they finally put one past Hart to make it a one-goal game, as Jordan Eberle rocketed a one-timer off an Adam Pelech feed 7:31 into the frame. A few minutes later Scott Mayfield was able to blast a slap shot through traffic and into the cage to flip a multi-goal contest into a tied tilt in a span of 4:15. A 20-minute session that saw the Flyers give up two goals and a pair of power plays concluded with a diving poke check from Anders Lee that nearly flipped the puck over Hart to give New York a lead in the final minute of period.
The Islanders dominated the first half of the final period with an 8-1 shot advantage including a lengthy cycle near the halfway mark where they did everything but light the lamp. With just a little over two minutes left in regulation Hart made his biggest stop in the win on Eberle, as he flew around Provorov and in on the young puckstopper for a breakaway with the game on the line. Despite tossing all of 11 shots on net in the first 53 minutes of regulation, Philadelphia grinded their way to an overtime victory.
Two big questions
1. Will the depth continue to produce?
I would say so! After Laughton started the passing sequence that led to Voracek’s opener the 2012 first-rounder put home the game-winner in overtime. Outside of Laughton the other five forwards that made the Flyers’ bottom six tonight were unable to record a goal or an assist and failed to control possession.
2. How chippy of a game will we see?
Even though this was the teams’ first meeting since the bubble and Morin was added up front this contest was tame. Aside from yelling after Michael Raffl’s penalty in the first period, it looked as both sides were more interested in grabbing a crucial pair of points in the standings.