For the last three games, the hot hands of Matt Moulson have been a major point of conversation. But Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, it was the hands of the other Matt – Martin – making the news and scoring the goals.
The Islanders entered the third period fighting back from a two-goal deficit. Then, Matt Martin struck gold for two goals, his third and fourth of the season. His second, sent it to overtime with 37 seconds left in the third. But 17.2 seconds left in the extra session, Andrej Meszaros scored to give the Philadelphia a 4-3.
“We were good tonight,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “That was one of the best games we’ve played. It was exciting to be behind the bench as their coach tonight. I’m proud of the guys. Our defense played extremely well for a young bunch back there and they never quit.”
Unfortunately, for the Isles, sacrificing bodies just wouldn’t cut it on the Flyers’ final tally. Meszaros’ goal was practically unstoppable.
“They came down on a two-on-one and I gave up that body for that shot,” Islanders goaltender Al Montoya said. “The guy made a great play. It was delayed. Hit the late guy. I got back in position and kind of just saw it at the last second. It was a great shot, top corner. This is a tough one to swallow.”
Led by Martin’s two goals the Islanders young guys never threw in the towel and showed the heart and passion that they’ve exemplified over the better part of this month. But after the loss, none of them were happy with the end result.
Goaltender Al Montoya #35 of the New York Islanders gloves the puck as teammate Travis Hamonic #36 and Danny Briere #48 of the Philadelphia Flyers anticipate a rebound on February 24, 2011 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
On the other hand, Capuano was extremely proud of the effort his team put on the ice, especially since the Isles have historically had difficulty against a very good Flyers team.
“We had our chances,” Capuano said. “It’s not frustrating at all. I think the guys will be frustrated a little bit, but again, 4-3 against a good hockey team. Down by two and to come back and do what we did just shows a lot of guts from our guys tonight.”
Once again, goaltender Al Montoya made phenomenal saves to keep the Islanders in the game, particularly a few in the third stanza. In all, the Isles goalie made 39 saves on the 43 shots he faced.
“It was anybody’s game,” the goaltender said. “A bounce here or a bounce there, it could have gone either way.”
“We did a lot of good things in the third,” Capuano said. “Al (Montoya) did some good things and made some great saves for us. But you’re right, they’re a high powered team, they have big forwards, defense has some great transitional players that join the rush, but our guys battled right until the end.”
This game wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting to watch without the amount of chances that the Islanders limited by the young lineup on the blueline. While the outcome of the game had the Isles feeling down, once the team has a little time for reflection, they’ll probably feel a little bit better about their performance.
“It’s unbelievable,” Montoya said. “Against a team like this and a building like this, since we haven’t won here since 2007, it was an unbelievable effort with the young defensive core we have right now. You couldn’t even tell. (Mark Katic) came in here and played really well. It was a great group effort against a team that is at the top of their game right now.”
The Islanders began the third period down by a two-goal deficit (3-1), but the Islanders fourth line really put on the pressure and scored two goals that would tie the score. First, Micheal Haley would rush the back of the net, establish a check and occupy three Flyers behind the red line, stealing the puck for a pass to a wide open Martin hanging out in the slot at 19:32.
Martin’s second goal was definitely one for the highlight reel. The puck came in high over the 6’3” forward’s head and he gloved the puck, pushing it down towards the ice for a shot that flew by a flustered Sergei Bobrovsky at 6:31.
“(Martin) had a good game,” Capuano said. “(The game-tying goal) was a nice shot and a nice goal. I just figured at that time, put a big body out front of the net to get some pucks through and he made a pretty good play obviously. The puck was over his head and he made a great shot to tie the game.”
But Martin remained even keeled and credited the goals to his teammates – and assistant coach Scott Allen.
Andreas Nodl #15 of the Philadelphia Flyers plays the puck in the corner while being pursued by Andrew MacDonald #47 of the New York Islanders on February 24, 2011 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
“On my first goal there, Hales (Haley) made a great play out to me,” Martin said. “You can credit that one all to him. Even on the last goal, everyone was battling hard to keep the puck in their end and Hammer (Travis Hamonic) made a great play to keep the puck in (the offensive zone) and I was able to grab it and shoot it in.”
Martin continued, “Our assistant coach Scotty Allen does a lot of that stuff with me after practices and he’s worked a lot with me this year. I guess you can credit that one to him too. I appreciate everything he’s done for me. He’s really brought my game along.”
The second stanza was where the Flyers shined (in the goal scoring category). Mike Richards was left unguarded in the slot and netted a goal at 1:58, leveling the score 1-1. And then with l2:29 left in the second, James van Riemsdyk found the back of the net to give the Flyers their first lead (2-1).
Even with Philadelphia’s two goals in the second, the Islanders outplayed the Flyers and outshot them 15-12. Much of that intensity was a result of the Islanders momentum gained after stealing a 1-0 lead in the first period.
Jack Hillen sent Frans Nielsen along the right side of the boards and the Isles center wristed a shot from the right faceoff dot. As the puck crossed the crease, it found its way past Bobrovsky blocker side at 9:03. Despite the goal, the Isles would finish the first period with just six shots on net.
The Islanders will undoubtedly carry some of their frustrations into Saturday night’s game at Nassau Coliseum, when they begin their first half of a home-and-home with the Washington Capitals.