By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
From the verge of disaster, the Flyers emerged victorious in Game 2.
The Flyers came out with the first period everyone wanted to see. Their best players took over the game. They made an early statement. They added to it. When the dust settled, they had established a lead and were in the driver’s seat.
Then the Islanders started slowly but surely clawing their way back. There was a goal on a power play that gave them life. There was a quick strike off a transition play in the third that made a comeback within reach. And when they completed that comeback in the dying minutes of the third period, it was a brand new game and the Flyers were on edge.
It took all of three minutes of the Flyers first overtime of the playoffs to erase that. Phil Myers scored the winning goal, the Flyers got the all-important bounce-back victory they needed and the series is tied again at one.
Here are 5 takeaways from Game 2 of Flyers-Islanders.
1. The Best Start
Talk about a quick response. After getting the doors blown off in Game 1 to the tune of a 4-0 loss, the Flyers wasted no time getting on the board in Game 2. It took just 1:57 for Kevin Hayes to step up and strike for a goal that hit the top bar and went in.
Hayes took command again with his second goal of the game just over nine minutes into the game. Both of his goals came off the rush and were perfectly placed shots that beat Semyon Varlamov, who finally looked human after back-to-back shutouts.
Then there was Sean Couturier’s goal. This was a statement in and of itself. Couturier gets control in a one-on-one battle with Nick Leddy. This was the definition of a power move. Couturier barrels in and works around Leddy, drives the net, gets Varlamov down and out of position, then tucks in the goal.
For Couturier, it was finally his first time on the board in the playoffs. It was also the type of goal that told you the Flyers were in control of this game. If only they really were…
2. Opening the Door
For more than half of the game, the Flyers hadn’t allowed the Islanders a power-play opportunity and took the worst kind of penalty you can take. This wasn’t a stick infraction or a necessary holding call to prevent a goal. This was a delay of game for the puck going out of play. That’s a self-inflicted wound.
This was definitely the moment the Islanders were waiting for, an opportunity to get back into the game that was rapidly slipping away. It took just 17 seconds for the Islanders to capitalize.
It was Anders Lee on the deflection in front from Mathew Barzal. Lee could have had four goals in this game today, that’s how good he was, but the one he did get to get the Islanders on the board provided a shift in momentum that left the Flyers protecting the two-goal lead for the rest of the second period.
3. The Hungrier Team
For the first part of the third period, the Flyers treated this game like any of the other ones they won in the Round Robin or in the first round against Montreal. They kept everything to the outside, they keep applying some pressure offensive, and they were just playing that good brand of shut-down hockey.
Two things happened that changed things. First, the Islanders focused on finding a way back into this game. The fourth line was glued to the bench for the most part, and guys like Lee, Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier got even more ice time. The Flyers, keeping Thursday’s Game 3 in mind, seemed focused on keeping the balance and rolling four lines as much as possible.
It wasn’t until just under nine minutes left when the Flyers first got burned. They pursued a three-on-two rush and Derek Grant centered the puck. It hit off the side of the net, went back into the slot and left three Flyers forwards behind. That sent the Islanders the other way, and again, seeing their opportunity, they pushed and executed a give-and-go to perfection with Beauvillier getting the payoff.
It’s a spot where you would like to see Carter Hart come up with a save, despite him having another strong game in goal overall, and that opened the door even more for the Islanders.
Now, they were the hungrier team that appeared to want it more. And when they capitalized on another turnover with their trade-deadline acquisition Jean-Gabriel Pageau, they had all the momentum.
Of course, what would a Flyers-Islanders playoff series be without an offside controversy? Alain Vigneault challenged the goal for offside, and the officials confirmed the call. It appeared that Vigneault and a few players were yelling that the officials reviewed the wrong play, especially as replays showed signs that there could be offside. Vigneault, however, took responsibility for the challenge after the game, saying that he made the wrong call on it.
Luckily, this didn’t have the same implications as the Leon Stickle call – a game which ended with a Flyers overtime loss – and the Flyers came out on the right end of the game. But what was already on display should be concerned. You need 60-minute efforts against the Islanders, because even taking a 3-0 lead in the first period and playing some good shutdown hockey with under 10 minutes to go in the third period still leaves enough time for this team to flip a switch, get motivated quickly and pounce.
4. Myers from Downtown
You probably weren’t alone if you thought the Flyers weren’t going to come out of this game with the win after the way the third period ended. But the Flyers came out in overtime as the more determined team to put it to an end.
It was Phil Myers who got the goal, but the work of the first line on that shift really set the table for the game-winner.
Off another jam play, Couturier looked like he had the winner on his stick. There was net to shoot at and he had a rebound off of Thomas Greiss that put him in prime scoring position. Devon Toews appeared to get his stick on it and help block it up and over the net.
Frustration was a big part of the Game 1 loss for the Flyers, and rather than show his frustration in not ending the game right there, Couturier stayed with the play, got to the loose puck behind the net and got it out to an open point for Myers.
Myers fired a one-timer and got the bounce the Flyers needed, a deflection off the stick of Lee that sent the puck down into the ice and skipped back up. With Greiss heavily screened, the puck sailed past and that sent the Flyers into celebration.
Myers is one of the Flyers most emotional players, especially when scoring goals. This is an undrafted free agent who worked his tail off at every stop in his journey to the NHL. It had to be so rewarding for him to get this goal.
5. Another Bounce Back
So now the series is tied, 1-1, thanks to yet another win for the Flyers to follow up a loss. It gives them a chance to bounce back again the next night when they face-off with the Islanders in Game 3.
Of course, the Islanders will have the same feeling, thinking they let a game get away after tying it up, and have some motivation to come back even stronger.
The Flyers still need to deliver their best effort in this series in the next game and there are players who still can reach a new level, but this was a step in the right direction for the Flyers.
More importantly, this is a team with some momentum now. They got the big win they needed to make this feel like a series again. Because it sure wouldn’t have felt that way if they let the 3-0 lead slip away and came out of it down 2-0 in the series.