A VERY LONG NIGHT IN PHILADELPHIA
By Kerry Gwydir
Two nights after their most impressive performance of the young season, the Islanders had their most disappointing, losing to the Flyers, 5-1, tonight in Philadelphia.
This wasn't the result that the Islanders wanted after watching the Flyers blow a big lead the night before on the same ice in beating the Penguins in overtime. Four first-period tallies -- two by Michal Handzus -- had the Flyers in control. The Flyers took a 4-1 lead after the first period and the Islanders spent most of the second period in the penalty box and were unable to mount a comeback. The Islanders were outshot, 16-6, in the opener, 35-13 through two periods and 46-20 for the game.
"We didn't play well from the start," said goaltender Garth Snow, who made 41 saves. "And we never managed to get back in it, even when we had some chances on the power play in the first period."
After having to kill only five penalties in Washington, the Islanders gave up two power goals and were shorthanded 12 times. The Islander's power play was 1-9.
"We were undisciplined for the entire game and that's not acceptable," said Islanders head coach Steve Stirling. "We didn't even give ourselves a chance."
The Islanders were in trouble 15 seconds into the game when the Flyers countered off the opening faceoff with a 2-on-1 rush. Snow managed to deny Branko Radivojevic's in-tight opportunity with his left pad.
Coverage issues plagued the Isles just 2:02 in when Handzus handed the hosts the early lead. Three Isles were unable to keep the Flyers at bay in front of Snow as Mike Richards was left untouched in the slot with the puck. The Flyer's rookie then spotted Handzus unchecked to the left of Snow, who whisked home Richard's precise feed into the empty side of the net. Instead of seizing the chance to open the game up, the Flyers began a steady waltz to the sin bin at the point including a pair of two-man chances given to the Islanders.
The Isles were given a chance to make amends with a 5-on-3 less than five minutes into the contest after Philly took a too many men on the ice penalty and a double-minor to Derian Hatcher. Mike York quickly took advantage of the man-up situation by slamming home his first Islander goal to the right of Philly netminder Robert Esche. Alexei Zhitnik ripped an Alexei Yashin feed from the right point that missed the Flyer's net. Yet, the puck immediately bounced to York, who quickly pounded the puck past the diving Esche.
After a failed second 5-on-3, it was Steve Stirling's squad's chance to kill off a shorthanded situation. But, after Janne Niinimaa was shipped to the penalty box, Philly's Patrick Sharp snapped home his first of the year at the 11:07 mark of the first. On the play, Flyer's captain Keith Primeau first beat the Islander coverage to a loose puck behind the Islander's net, then flipped a feed over Zhitnik's stick to the untouched Sharp in the high slot.
Philadelphia added to their lead at the 14:00 mark off a giveaway following a defensive zone faceoff win by the Isles. Kim Johnsson followed up a giveaway by Jason Blake at the Islander blueline by snapping off a shot through a screen that beat Snow over the right shoulder.
Handzus added to the lead with three minutes left in the first as he banged home the rebound of his own shot under the Islander goaltender. Snow originally had stopped Handzus on the doorstep, but the Islander coverage failed to tie up the Flyer forward who added another whack at the puck that wound up squeaking through the Isle's netminder.
"They came out hard and flying and we came out a little confused," said Janne Niinimaa.
Simon Gagne extended the lead to 5-1 with 8:07 left in the second while the Isles had Radek Martinek and Arron Asham in the penalty box. Philly defenseman Eric Desjardins spotted Gagne unmarked to the right of Snow, and then fired a feed that the Flyer's left wing directed into the net with his left skate.
Jason Blake led the Islanders with six shots. Alexei Yashin had one shot on goal and was minus-2 in just 12:18 of icetime. Miroslav Satan had two shots and was minus-2 in 13:28. It was that kind of night for the Islanders, as Steve Stirling sat two of his best offensive players for parts of the third period. In their place, Robert Nilsson saw primary shifts on power plays in the third.
"We had chances early, but we didn't take advantage," said Yashin.
(45) Arron Asham-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(55) Jason Blake-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(12) Oleg Kvasha-(29) Petteri Nokelainen-(37) Mark Parrish
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(21) Robert Nilsson-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(25) Brad Lukowich-(14) Chris Campoli
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(24) Radek Martinek
(30) Garth Snow
(34) Wade Dubielewicz
(12) Simon Gagne-(21) Peter Forsberg-(22) Mike Knuble
(26) Michal Handzus-(18) Mike Richards-(49) Brian Savage
(87) Donald Brashear-(25) Keith Primeau-(19) Branko Radivojevic
(11) Jon Sim-(17) Jeff Carter-(9) Patrick Sharp
(2) Derian Hatcher-(5) Kim Johnsson
(44) Joni Pitkanen-(3) Mike Rathje
(28) Dennis Sseidenberg-(37) Eric Desjardins
(42) Robert Esche
(30) Antero Nittymaki