Steve Mason glove-saves one of 28 shots he record.
By Jack Ryan
If the Flyers miss the playoffs this season, last night’s game at the Wells against the New York Islanders will come back to haunt them.
With 4:53 left in the second period, the Flyers had a 2-1 lead over the Isles, whose best defenseman, Johnny Boychuk, was being carried off the ice after being hit with a shot on the inside of his left knee.
But the Islanders continued to push, tied the game in the final 3:12 of the second and defeated the Flyers 3-2 in a shootout.
Mikhail Grabovski scored for the Islanders (33-17-1). Goalie Jaroslav Halak made 16 saves and stopped six of seven shootout attempts.
Nick Schultz and Chris VandeVelde scored for the Flyers (22-22-8), and Vincent Lecavalier had two assists. Goaltender Steve Mason made 28 saves and stopped five shootout attempts.
The loss ended Philly’s four-game winning streak.
It was the second straight game when the Flyers were limited to 18 shots. They had 18 in their 1-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 31, but only got as many as they did Thursday thanks to two shots in overtime.
“We weren’t sharp,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “We didn’t play a very good game with the puck. We had the 2-0 lead, give it back to them. … Should never have gotten there. You got a 2-0 lead, you pick your game up and we didn’t. We didn’t execute with the puck good enough.”
That’s one reason the Islanders never lost faith; they never felt they weren’t in control of the game.
“We controlled most of that second period and even had a pretty good start to the game,” Islanders captain John Tavaressaid. “We just stuck with it and got a big goal there that got us back in it. The second one was a bonus one going into the second intermission.”
Clutterbuck’s goal with 1:13 remaining in the second got the Islanders even 2-2. Mason got his blocker on Brock Nelson’s shot off the rush from the left side, but the puck went right to Clutterbuck, who scored his fifth goal, first in 19 games.
It came 1:59 after Grabovski turned Luke Schenn’s giveaway in front of the Philadelphia net into his eighth goal.
“I think I did a good job sticking with it,” Clutterbuck said. “I don’t think it was a 2-0 game in their favor as far as the game was going. We told ourselves we had to stick with it. Guys had a couple huge goals in the end of the second period and we took it from there.”
The Flyers took their lead in part because of strong play from their fourth line, especially VandeVelde and Lecavalier.
“I thought that was the one line with a lot of energy, lot of execution,” Berube said. “They looked really good. They kept us in the game for sure, along with our goalie.”
The Flyers led 1-0 going into the second period despite having six shots. They got a fortuitous bounce when Islanders forward Josh Bailey and defenseman Travis Hamonic collided at their blue line and Lecavalier jumped on the loose puck. His shot attempt from in close bounced off Boychuk and the side of the net. Lecavalier retrieved the loose puck behind the net and found Schultz pinching in. His one-timer from the slot went past Halak for his second goal.
Schultz has two goals in three games after going 125 games between goals before scoring Jan. 29 against the Winnipeg Jets.
VandeVelde made it 2-0 when Lecavalier won a board battle in the Philly zone and got the puck to VandeVelde, who started a 2-on-1 rush with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
VandeVelde held the puck on the right side and beat Halak to the short side, past his glove.
It was VandeVelde’s eighth goal and sixth in 10 games.
After the Islanders tied the game in the second, the Flyers had chances to go ahead in the third, but they couldn’t take advantage of an early power play when Tavares was sent off for slashing. Philadelphia, which entered with the second-best home power play in the League, managed one shot against a New York penalty kill that was ranked 30th and allowed three power-play goals in seven opportunities in the previous three games.
“We left the extra point out there,” Mason said. “Obviously we kind of shot ourselves in the foot and at the end of the second period there giving up two goals just off of our own mistakes. If we could get out of that period 2-0 who knows what the outcome would be. So definitely I think we definitely left a point out there.”
In the first round of the shootout, Frans Nielsen scored for the Islanders, but Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds scored in the third round to prolong it.
In the seventh round, Clutterbuck skated down the middle and snapped a shot over Mason’s glove. It was Clutterbuck’s first NHL shootout goal on his fourth attempt.
“I don’t know if I’d call it a plan,” Clutterbuck said of his thought process on the shootout. “We spend a lot of time shooting on goalies that catch with the [left] hand (Mason catches right-handed). It’s a different shot for me. … I didn’t think he’d expect that I’d try to hide the puck a little bit and try to tuck it up there. Wasn’t really planned; just tried to hit a hole.”
Halak stopped Sean Couturier’s attempt and the Islanders were able to celebrate.
“We found a way to win the game,” Capuano said. “We got the result we deserved tonight.”