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Flyers 3, Islanders 1: Hayes scores twice to end Flyers’ 10-game losing streak

At long last, the skid has ended.

New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers have been going through it. There’s simply no way around it.

Losing 10 straight games isn’t something most NHL teams should pull off very often, yet the Flyers have embarked on three separate 10-game losing skids in just over one calendar year. After a hot start to the season in which the Flyers won four of their first five games, they’re now one of the worst clubs in the league, nestled comfortably alongside the Columbus Blue Jackets as the two worst teams in the Metropolitan Division.

Tuesday night, the Flyers had a chance to put an end to their latest streak of despair when they hosted the New York Islanders — the same team that handed them their 10th straight loss just three days ago — at Wells Fargo Center. And they did just that, taking down the Isles 3-1 in the first contest of their five-game homestand.

But before any scoring got underway, Zack MacEwen and Nic Deslauriers helped fire up the arena in a way only they can — by beating the hell out of people. Both MacEwen and Deslauriers dropped the gloves a mere seconds into the tilt with MacEwen partnering up with long-time Islander Matt Martin and Deslauriers exchanging blows with Isles tough guy Ross Johnston.

After the fighting subsided, though, the Flyers actually got off to one of their best starts of the entire season.

For just the second time in their first 23 games of the campaign, the Flyers finished the first 20 minutes of a game with the lead. A little over a minute after Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson opened the scoring, Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim netted a huge goal to even the score with a backhander on a shorthanded rush. Soon after, Kevin Hayes roofed one off a draw for his seventh of the season.

Hayes, despite recently being demoted to third-line wing after starting the season as a top-line center, currently leads the Flyers with 24 points through the first 23 games of the season.

“He’s trying away from the puck,” said head coach John Tortorella. “I think he’s in a better spot playing wing, where he just doesn’t get as many opportunities as far as low coverage, where there are some struggles in his game. So we’re trying — a team that’s starving for offense — I’m trying to take the pressure off of him defensively and being worried about all those situations low and let him work on his other part of his game, and I think it’s really helped him. And he’s also trying away from the puck. He’s asking the questions.

“Each night it’s different for me. Everybody thinks Kevin’s in the doghouse. Kevin isn’t in the doghouse. Kevin needs to learn how to play the right way. And I think he’s trying to do that. So he gets an opportunity tonight and scores a goal for us.”

From the early fights to the quick scores, the first period had no shortage of highlights.

The second period was quite the opposite, though the Flyers certainly weren’t complaining after taking their lead — and a power play — into the final third. Lukas Sedlak even put together a high-danger scoring chance on the man advantage in the middle frame’s waning seconds, but Isles goalie Ilya Sorokin managed to keep the puck out of the net to preserve the one-goal deficit.

Not so surprisingly, the Flyers’ league-worst power play was unable to capitalize during the remaining time on its man advantage to start the final third. And as the Flyers have done so often in the season’s early going, they were forced to rely on Carter Hart to protect the one-goal lead.

Early in the third, Hart came up huge on a high-danger sequence that denied the Islanders a potential game-tying tally. The 24-year-old appeared to be favoring his midsection after the sequence, but he managed to remain in the game.

With 5:47 left in regulation, Flyers youngster Owen Tippett took an ill-timed high-sticking penalty that gave the Islanders a golden opportunity to net an equalizer on the power play. Luckily, Hart and the Flyers’ penalty kill rose to the occasion to keep the score unaffected.

They weren’t out of the woods yet, though. The Islanders have been hard to put away all season long, putting together comeback wins routinely. But with Sorokin pulled, the Flyers were unwavered, and it was Hayes who sealed the deal with an empty-net tally to earn his squad its first victory since November 8.

It may not have been the prettiest outing, but the losing streak, mercifully, is over. The Flyers still have much to be desired in many areas — particularly offensively — but they played a tough, stingy game to end the 10-game skid. And at this point, that’s all Tortorella can ask.

“I’m glad for them, because they have played hard, and they have not been rewarded,” said Tortorella.

“You have to do more to win in this league. We did tonight. We’re learning you get what you deserve and I think we deserved to win tonight’s game.”

The Flyers will be back at it Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center for a tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They have four games remaining on their homestand before road trip out west, beginning with a contest against the Vegas Golden Knights on December 9.

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