-- The sign of a good team is when it doesn't play its best game and still goes home with two points. That's how the Philadelphia Flyers
felt Thursday after surviving a late rally by the New York Islanders
and escaping with a 4-3 overtime victory.
Andrej Meszaros' goal with 17.6 seconds left in overtime was the deciding factor as the Flyers stayed one point behind Vancouver in the race for the top spot in the NHL standings.
Claude Giroux started the play by holding the puck in the zone, and fed a pinching Matt Carle down the middle. He sent the puck to Ville Leino along the right side. Leino waited for a shooting lane to come open, but when that didn't happen, he found Meszaros a few steps inside the blue line, and the defenseman beat Al Montoya from just above the circles.
"That's patience by Ville," Meszaros said. "I tried to come back because Matty was joining the rush and it was 3-on-1. I didn't want to go there. But Ville was hanging onto the puck and he had great patience and I took a couple steps in front and he found me and I put it in."
Jeff Carter had a goal and an assist, Claude Giroux had 2 assists and Mike Richards and James van Riemsdyk also scored for the Flyers.
Matt Martin had his first two-goal NHL game to lead the Islanders. Frans Nielsen also scored.
The win was the Flyers' 12th straight against the Islanders in Philadelphia, a streak that dates to April 7, 2007, and was the Flyers' 19th win in their last 20 games against the Isles.
However, this one didn't come easy, as the Islanders scored the only goal of the first period, nearly took a two-goal lead early in the second, and scored twice in the third to force overtime.
"It was a tough game," Meszaros said. "We got the two points and we're just going to check the video tomorrow, see the mistakes and learn from that and keep going."
The Flyers led 3-1 on Carter's goal at 5:05 of the third. The Isles answered just 1:26 later as Michael Haley beat three Flyers for a puck along the wall in the Philadelphia zone and fed Martin all alone in the slot. Then, with 27.1 seconds left, Martin gloved Travis Hamonic's pop fly pass from the right wall, spun and dropped it onto his forehand and ripped a shot past Sergei Bobrovsky.
"It's huge when you score a goal at the end of any period, it really kills momentum for the other team," Martin told NHL.com. "The crowd went silent there. We had a few chances in overtime. Sometimes you win them, sometimes you lose them."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette wasn't particularly happy with the way his team played defensively in the third period.
"Anytime you give up leads it concerns you," he said. "Offensively we've fired a lot of shots, got a lot of shots, but defensively I thought at times we were too loose, too casual, left the front of the net open. The lead part -- that concerns me. Offensively we didn't stop firing in the third period and the overtime and we kept looking to attack, so I thought that was a positive. But defensively there were some breakdowns."
You certainly could say that about the game's first goal, when Nielsen went end to end to score his eighth of the season. He retrieved a puck deep in the Islanders' zone and built up speed along the right-wing boards, first zipping by forward Darroll Powe and then steaming past Carle. He got to the bottom of the right circle and fired a wrist shot that ticked off Bobrovsky's right pad and went under his blocker.
Nielsen had a chance early in the second to make it 2-0 on a mini-breakaway when he beat Bobrovsky but left his shot on the left post.
Richards tied the game just 1:58 into the second period. Sean O'Donnell's point shot was blocked by Isles rookie defenseman Ty Wishart, who was shook up on the play but not seriously hurt. Scott Hartnell poked the puck away from Jack Hillen and right to Richards skating alone at the hash marks, and he one-timed the puck past Al Montoya for his 19th of the season.
Van Riemsdyk put the Flyers ahead 2-1 at 17:31 of the second period. Giroux was skating through the Islanders' zone when he flipped a behind-the-back, backhand pass to van Riemsdyk in front. Van Riemsdyk stopped the puck with his skate, kicked it to his forehand and beat Montoya for his 15th of the season.
"I was pretty tired, at the end of my shift," said Giroux. "I saw him go to the net, he beat his guy and I just tried to put it in front there. It ended up on his stick on his backhand, great play by him to bring it back to his forehand."
The Islanders got 39 saves by rookie goaltender Al Montoya and had plenty of chances, but had to settle for one point instead of a streak-busting victory.
"I wouldn't say it's a moral victory. We haven't won a game here since 2007," Martin said. "We really wanted to come in here and get the two points. It's unfortunate, but like I said, we battled hard and found a way to get a point."
The Flyers suffered a scare late, as they had to play the final minutes of regulation and all of overtime without stalwart defenseman Chris Pronger, who injured his right hand when he was hit by a shot. However, x-rays were negative -- Pronger said he could have come back to play and that it's likely he'll be in the lineup when the Flyers play in Ottawa on Saturday.
"I had my gear back on, but chose the better part of valor and decided not to," Pronger said of returning to Thursday's game. "Couldn't really grip my stick very well."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK