New York Islanders look to keep pace in East vs. Flyers

By Field Level Media
Mar 22, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders didn’t have to look far to find the silver linings following an unusual game Thursday night. But there was no bright side to what happened to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night.

The Islanders will look to keep pace in the three-way battle for first place in the East Division on Saturday night, when they host the reeling Flyers in a battle of longtime rivals in Uniondale, N.Y.

The Islanders won a rare high-scoring game Thursday night, when Mathew Barzal posted a hat trick in an 8-4 win over the visiting Washington Capitals.

Meanwhile, the Flyers made the bit of history every East Division team was hoping to avoid Wednesday night, when the host Buffalo Sabres snapped the longest losing streak (18 straight losses) of the shootout era with a 6-1 victory.

The eight goals by the Islanders were tied for the most they’ve scored since coach Barry Trotz arrived prior to the 2018-19 season. New York beat the Detroit Red Wings 8-2 on Jan. 14, 2020.

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The win, despite a shaky defensive performance, was equally notable for the Islanders, who allowed more than three goals in a win for the first time this season Thursday.

“These games are fun because you’ve got two good teams, two intense teams,” Trotz said. “You’re going to give up some stuff. You’ve just got to limit it as much as you can. And we were fortunate we were able to score a few goals tonight.”

The Flyers were not in nearly as jovial a mood following the lopsided defeat to the Sabres, who’d lost their previous 18 games (0-15-3) dating back to Feb. 25 — the 14th-longest losing streak in NHL history and the longest skid since the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 18 straight games in 2003-04, the season before the NHL instituted the shootout.

The defeat Wednesday capped a tumultuous month for the Flyers, who went 6-10-1 in March and gave up 75 goals, the most surrendered in a single month in franchise history. Philadelphia lost four games by at least five goals and gave up at least four goals 11 times.

And it could have been worse. The Flyers dodged disaster against the Sabres on Monday night by spotting Buffalo the game’s first three goals before storming back to earn a 4-3 overtime victory.

“Everybody needs to bring their ‘A’ game every night, and it seems we have some guys on and some guys off,” Flyers center Sean Couturier said Wednesday night. “It’s tough to win that way. As professionals, you have to find your game every night. It’s tough to win when you have some guys off. Matchup-wise, it’s tough.”

Despite the month-long skid, the Flyers head into April tied for fifth in the East with the New York Rangers, three points behind the fourth-place Boston Bruins. Philadelphia and Boston are scheduled to play each other three times in a six-day span beginning Monday night.

The win by the Islanders on Thursday night, coupled with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-1 win over the Bruins, created a three-way tie atop the East at 50 points among the Islanders, Pittsburgh and Washington. The Capitals were scheduled to visit the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

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–Field Level Media