John Tavares scored his 28th goal of the season, and Kevin Poulin, making his first start since April 2, turned aside 28-of-30 shots, but the Islanders fell 2-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.
With the game tied for most of the second and third period, Oliver Lauridsen’s second goal of the season through traffic proved to be the game-winner. The loss marks the Islanders first regulation defeat since March 30 at Pittsburgh; the team was 8-0-3 since then leading into Thursday’s game.
Despite the loss, Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano was complimentary of his starting goaltender’s effort.
“I thought he was strong,” Capuano said of Poulin. “He made some big saves. The first period, we were down one, but we could have been down two or three. He kept us right where we needed to be, and I was happy with the way he played tonight. He gave us a chance.”
With the Islanders skating a man down, Danny Briere scored the game’s first goal midway through the opening frame. Simon Gagne worked the puck down low to Brayden Schenn, who fed across the slot to Briere. The veteran beat Poulin at the 11:41 mark.
Matt Moulson almost tied the score on a backhand opportunity as the first period drew to a close, but Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov got his glove on it to keep the Islanders off the board.
The Islanders scored the equalizer in the second minute of the middle period. Matt Carkner threw the puck to the slot for Tavares, who tipped-in his team-leading 28th tally of the season after his shot hit Bryzgalov’s stick and rolled across the goal line.
The game remained deadlocked at 1-1 until late in the third, when Lauridsen’s slap shot found twine. His rising shot went through a screen set by Jakub Voracek and over Poulin to give the Flyers the lead.
The final stages of the third period were full of drama, as Poulin stopped Matt Read from in close with less than three minutes to go, keeping the game within reach. The netminder was pulled for an extra attacker with 1:43 remaining, and the Islanders kept pressure in the Philadelphia zone for the remainder of the contest. Tavares was stopped on a wrist shot from the right circle with 45 seconds left, and Kyle Okposo’s tuck-in attempt moments later was denied.
Following the game, Islanders forward Matt Martin said the loss will serve as a good teaching tool for what the team needs to fix before the playoffs start next week.
“We came out flat tonight,” Martin said. “It just wasn’t good enough. We need to be better. We clinched a playoff spot already, but that doesn’t mean anything. We want to be going into the playoffs playing good hockey. We’ve got one game left to correct it and head into the postseason with a good feeling.”
The Islanders have a quick turnaround before the season finale. Friday night’s matchup against the Buffalo Sabres will start at 7:00 p.m.
Notes: The New York Rangers beat Carolina to move ahead of the Islanders for sixth place in the East … The Islanders currently sit seventh with 54 points, while Ottawa is in eighth with the same amount … The Flyers out-shot the Islanders 30-22, marking the first time in 11 games the Islanders allowed more shots than they took … Matt Moulson led the team with four shots on goal … Mark Streit had a game-high 25:50 of ice time … Matt Martin led the team with six hits.