Colin McDonald’s first career two-goal game could not have come at a better time, as the forward buried his fifth and sixth markers of the season to help the Islanders defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in a shootout Thursday at Wells Fargo Center. The win is the Islanders second to begin a four-game road trip and third straight victory overall. At 16-15-3, the Islanders have 35 points, and are tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
John Tavares scored his team leading 21st goal of the season late in the second period, and McDonald’s two goals within a six minute span in the third put the Islanders up 3-2. Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell tied the game at 3-3 with the Flyers net vacant in the final minute. Brad Boyes and Josh Bailey scored in the shootout, while Evgeni Nabokov added to his 33 saves, stopping three-of-four in the shootout to earn the two points for the Islanders.
“I thought we rebounded from some early trouble, and this was a big character win for us,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “We juggled the lines in the second period just to try to spark the guys, and we were able to get back in it.”
The Islanders generated a lot of pressure in the first period, firing 10 of the first 12 shots on goal, but the Flyers were able to put pucks past Nabokov to take a 2-0 lead through the first 20 minutes.
Hartnell scored on a Philadelphia power play to put the Flyers ahead 1-0. Claude Giroux entered the zone, pulled up along the left wing boards and found Hartnell in the middle. His shot went underneath Nabokov's glove.
Later in the period, a turnover in the neutral zone led to the Flyers second goal. Mike Knuble forced a turnover near center ice and came in on a two-on-one with Giroux. A quick passing play led to Knuble breaking in alone on Nabokov and sliding the puck on his backhand past the Islanders outstretched net-minder at the 17:25 mark of the opening period.
Bailey said the team’s focus after outshooting the opposition 14-9 was to stay positive.
“We knew we needed to correct some things,” Bailey said. “We didn’t have a very good first period. Anytime you come out of the period down 2-0, no matter what the shots are, it’s not very good. We got better as the game went on and found a way to get the job done.”
Late in the second, Tavares’ goal brought the Islanders within one. The team’s leading scorer made a blind backhand pass across the crease to Matt Moulson, but the puck pinballed off the skates of Luke Schenn and then Erik Gustafsson before crossing the goal-line.
Capuano said Tavares’ goal shifted momentum for the team heading into the final 20.
“All of a sudden we were one shot away,” Capuano said. “Nabby made a big save right before that to keep it 2-0, and it easily could have been 3-0. Any time you’re plus or minus in the first or last minute of a period it’s huge.”
Midway through the third period, the Islanders tied things up on McDonald’s first goal of the game. Michael Grabner saw Keith Aucoin behind the goal line. Aucoin made a slick one-touch pass to McDonald in the slot who fired a shot past Flyers’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s blocker.
McDonald’s second of the night found the same spot, but it took some hard work to create the opportunity. His initial shot on goal was blocked by a defenseman, and when the puck rebounded back to his stick, he put it on net again. This time, Bruno Gervais’ skate redirected the puck past Bryzgalov’s blocker to give the Islanders their first lead of the contest.
“That third period was a good period for us,” McDonald said. “I thought we started off pretty slow. We just have to continue to get better. We’re figuring out how we need to play – playing physical, getting pucks in. Not just one or two lines, but all four lines. We just need to really focus on that this weekend.”
Bryzgalov was pulled after an icing call with 1:34 remaining, and on the ensuing draw, the Islanders were penalized for delay of game. A minute later, Hartnell’s second of the game went in following a long scramble in front. Matt Read and Simmonds each whacked away at the puck, but Hartnell got the final touch as it went in off the Islanders net-minder with 30 seconds remaining.
After a scoreless overtime, the teams advanced to the shootout, where the Islanders continued their perfect record. Giroux’s goal to start the second round gave the Flyers the early edge, but Boyes returned the favor with a snap shot that went off the cross-bar and past Bryzgalov’s glove. Nabokov stopped the following attempts from Brayden Schenn and Simmonds, and Bailey ended the contest with a wrister from the slot in the second half of the fourth round.
“I had an idea of what I wanted to do beforehand,” Bailey said. “I tried to give him a little fake, and go low blocker-side, and was happy to see it go in the back of the net.”
The Islanders continue the road trip on Saturday, March 30, when they head to western Pennsylvania to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The matinee contest begins at 1 p.m.
Notes: The Islanders went 0-for-5 on the power play, while the Flyers went 2-for-2 on the man advantage … Both teams posted 36 shots on goal, but the Islanders had another 42 that were either blocked or missed the target … Lubomir Visnovsky led all players with 27:50 of ice time … Mark Streit had a game-high seven shots … Travis Hamonic and Matt Carkner tied for the team lead with three blocked shots … The Islanders out-hit Philadelphia 31-13, led by Matt Martin’s six hits.
New York Islanders
60 Kevin Poulin
24 Matt Read - 28 Claude Giroux - 93 Jakub Voracek
19 Scott Hartnell - 10 Brayden Schenn - 17 Wayne Simmonds
36 Zac Rinaldo - 14 Sean Couturier - 25 Maxime Talbot
12 Simon Gagne - 9 Mike Knuble - 26 Ruslan Fedotenko
44 Kimmo Timonen - 22 Luke Schenn
27 Bruno Gervais - 5 Braydon Coburn
29 Erik Gustafsson - 3 Kurtis Foster
30 Ilya Bryzgalov
49 Michael Leighton