On a night where every East Division game went to overtime, the New York Islanders got a much-needed point on Saturday, but saw their winless streak reach four games in a 3-2 OT loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
Scott Laughton netted the OT winner at 3:16 of the extra frame, marking a disappointing result for a game the Islanders controlled for large stretches. Jordan Eberle and Scott Mayfield scored for the Islanders, while Jake Voracek and Kevin Hayes scored for the Flyers in regulation.
"We probably deserved a better fate, but we were pretty loose with pucks early and had to dig ourselves out of a hole" Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "That being said, I liked the way we responded, I liked the way that we dug ourselves out of a hole and we showed the character it's going to take for us to maybe put some games together and collect some points here."
The loss dropped the Islanders to 0-3-1 on their current road trip and also snapped the Islanders four-game regular-season winning streak vs the Flyers.
The Islanders didn't get the right result on Saturday, but the process marked a big improvement on their previous three games, as the Islanders smothered the Flyers for a majority of the contest.
The Islanders held the Flyers to 17 total shots, including four in each of the second and third periods. It looked much like the stingy Trotz team of the past two seasons, keeping the Flyers to the outside, and without shots - let alone high-danger chances - for long stretches.
The strong second and third were in response to a stuttering start, which saw the Islanders fall behind 2-0 by the 13:55 mark, both on a pair of cross-ice, backdoor plays. Trotz was not pleased with his team early - citing "horrible decisions" from veterans - but credited his team with parking the start and working their way back into the game.
"What I liked about our group is that we dug ourselves a hole and we didn't get small, we got big," Trotz said. "We got determined, we didn't feel sorry for ourselves and all that. That's a step in the right direction… We have to follow it up tomorrow or it's meaningless."
The Islanders flipped the script in the second period, outshooting the Flyers 10-4 in the middle frame, while tying the score 2-2 on a pair of goals from Eberle and Mayfield. The Islanders locked it down in the third period, holding the Flyers to one shot - an Erik Gustafsson make-sure-the-goalie-is-awake slapper from outside the blue line - in the opening 11 minutes.
The Islanders ultimately outshot the Flyers 21-8 in the second and third period, pouring on the pressure with Leo Komarov nearly ending it on a two-on-one late in the third. By period's end, the Flyers were hanging on, content to flip the puck out and get to overtime. It was a prudent move, with Laughton eventually carrying the puck deep into the Islanders zone, outwaiting Semyon Varlamov and scoring the game-winner.
"You look at the way we finished the game, the second, third and overtime, it's something to build on," Eberle said. "That being said, it's a short season and every point counts. It obviously sucks to lose that extra point, so we have to move forward."
After a slow start, Trotz shuffled his lines in the second period, flip-flopping Eberle and Josh Bailey on the top two lines.
The re-jiggered lines accomplished their goal, as the Islanders scored a pair of goals 4:15 apart to notch the score 2-2 just past the midway mark of the frame.
Eberle, playing with Brock Nelson and Leo Komarov, put the Islanders on the board at 7:31, one-timing a feed from Adam Pelech past Carter Hart. Pelech made the play happen with a good pinch off the blue line, circling the net before spotting and feeding Eberle.
"I thought Jordan was going pretty good on that [Barzal] line the last couple of games, but just not getting results," Trotz said. "When he jumped on that [Nelson] line, I thought he was good. What I liked about him - it wasn't a demotion, I had to get some of our lines going here - he took it upon himself to say, 'Hey I'll make a difference.' That's what you want from your veterans. If you move them around, they can bring other guys with them. I thought Jordan did that tonight, that's really good on him."
Mayfield tied the score with his first of the season shortly after, beating Hart with a half-slapper from the top of the right circle at 11:46. Mayfield's goal capped some good pressure by the Islanders new-look line that saw Josh Bailey up with Mat Barzal and Anders Lee.
"It's just trying to find something different," Eberle said. "We have a lot of guys who can play in a lot of different places. It kickstarted us a bit and we started to play well. [Bailey] and myself, we're fine wherever. We're both here to win hockey games, we don't care where we are."
In addition to playing a shutdown game vs the Flyers, the Islanders blue line keyed the offense in Saturday's game.
Eberle's goal was created off a smart pinch from Pelech, while Mayfield's goal was one of the defenseman's team-high seven shot attempts. The Islanders defense accounted for seven of the team's 28 shots, and was active all night, which Trotz said was also the product of a good forecheck from his forwards.
"I think you could tell our pace in the second and third was completely different than the last couple games," Barzal said. "A lot of credit goes to our D-men. That's the best they played all season."
Initially a game-time decision, Ryan Pulock was in the lineup on Saturday night.
Pulock had an awkward collision with Tom Wilson at the end of Thursday's game, briefly putting his status for Saturday in doubt. With the game, Pulock extended his ironman streak to 203 games, third longest for d-men in Isles history.
The defenseman showed no wear or tear, as he led the Islanders with 23:53 TOI and had four shot attempts. Perhaps his best moment came late in the third, stepping up on Kevin Hayes to prevent a Flyers rush at the Islanders blue line in a 2-2 game.
POWER PLAY GOES 0-FOR-4:
The Islanders power play went 0-for-4 on Saturday night, generating four shots with the man advantage, while allowing two shorthanded tries for the Flyers. The power play is 1-for-12 in the team's past four games. The penalty kill was 1-for-1.
The Islanders and Flyers meet again on Sunday as they wrap up a back-to-back set. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.