Just like the Islanders, the Philadelphia Flyers had bounced back from every loss this postseason with a win.
That ended Sunday night.
The Islanders have been a third-period team all postseason and that continued as they buried two goals in the final 20 minutes to take a 3-2 win and a 3-1 series lead over the Flyers on Sunday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Following a lackluster second period, in which they managed to score a goal on just three shots before the Flyers pulled even at 1-1, the Islanders once again pieced together a lethal finish behind goals from Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Brock Nelson’s second of the day.
Making his first official start of the postseason, Thomas Greiss turned aside 35 of the 37 shots he faced, as the Islanders are now one win away from their first Eastern Conference Final appearance since 1993.
The Islanders opened up the first with a couple of turnovers that led to early chances for the Flyers. It seemingly woke the Islanders up because they suddenly went into overdrive, combating Philadelphia’s early 7-0 advantage in attempts by finishing the period up 18-7 in shots.
Mathew Barzal was buzzing throughout the first, jump-starting a dangerous chance for Jordan Eberle in the neutral zone with a leading pass that Eberle took to the net before Brian Elliott made the stop just over five minutes in.
A long shift for the Islanders in the Flyers’ zone ended with Barzal drawing a delayed penalty and getting a very brief 6-on-5 opportunity before Elliott covered the puck. It was Barzal’s sixth penalty draw this postseason, tying Adam Pelech and Anders Lee for the team lead. The Isles racked up five straight shots shortly into the man-advantage before Elliott came up with a glove save on a Barzal one-timer to give his penalty kill unit a much-needed breather.
Elliott was forced to make nine total saves during the Isles’ first power play.
Eberle registered the Islanders’ first quality chance of the second with a quick turnaround shot 1 ½ minutes into the middle frame, but Elliott swallowed it up to keep it scoreless. Joel Farabee responded for the Flyers with a slick shot around Ryan Pulock that reached Greiss, who gave up the rebound before quickly covering it up. Travis Sanheim then hit the post before the puck slid right under Greiss.
After the Flyers failed to clear puck twice from their zone, Josh Bailey found Brock Nelson for the top-shelf snipe to lift the Islanders 1-0 at 6:52 of the second. Bailey’s assist was his 10th of the postseason, the most by an Islander since Derek King had 11 in 1992-93 playoffs.
But from there, the Flyers were all over the Islanders on all ends of the ice.
With just under five minutes left in the middle frame, Sean Couturier deflected a hard shot from the point in to knot the game 1-1. Philadelphia’s game-tying tally was the first goal the Isles allowed in either the second or third period in the past five games.
Greiss then came up with a big glove save on Claude Giroux, who is still looking for his first goal of the postseason, with 2:35 left before the second intermission. As seconds ticked down on the clock, Greiss posted back-to-back saves on James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek.
The Flyers outshot the Islanders 17-3 in the second, recording the last 12 shots.
Both teams exchanged quality chances to start the third, with Eberle just missing wide while crashing the net. Pelech hit iron shortly after. On the rush, Scott Mayfield sent a crisp pass to a crash Pageau, who banged home the 2-1 score at 7:18 of the third.
A two-on-one rush between Nelson and Bailey ended with Nelson recording his second goal of the night for the insurance tally at 11:12.
The Flyers pulled Elliott with two minutes left in regulation and Ivan Provorov’s long shot found the back of the net to make it a one-goal game. But the Islanders hung on after pinning the puck in the corner for the last minute.
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