It’s not how you start, but how you finish. The Flyers lived up to that motto on Thanksgiving Eve as they overcame an early 3-1 deficit in New York to beat the Islanders 4-3 in overtime.
Danny Briere scored the Flyers’ final two goals, while Sergei Bobrovsky relieved Ilya Bryzgalov after the first period and didn’t allow a single goal on 23 shots. Both Scott Hartnell and Braydon Coburn had two points on the night while the Flyers extended their winning streak against the Islanders to seven games.
At the end of the first minute, the game was tied. However, instead of the predictable scoreless tie, both teams had found the back of the net once for a 1-1 tilt.
Rick DiPietro looked good at the very beginning of the game, mainly because the Isles were sporting their new third jerseys. When it came to the actual game, however, it only took DiPietro 18 seconds to look bad.
Andrej Meszaros let go of a rocket from just inside the blue line on the left wing that zipped along and settled top shelf over DiPietro’s blocker. Meszaros’ second goal of the season gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead, but it didn’t last long.
After being blanked in back-to-back games, the Islanders finally scored – and quickly — in response to Meszaros’ goal. Michael Grabner set up Kyle Okposo in the slot for his first goal of the season just 19 seconds after the Flyers tallied to even the score. The goal was Okposo’s first goal of the season, his first in 23 games, and was the Islanders’ first red-light excursion since Matt Moulson’s second period goal against the Canadiens on Thursday (seven scoreless periods).
Both Bryzgalov and DiPietro decided to make some saves before the Isles struck again to take a 2-1 lead. With Zac Rinaldo in the box for interference, Okposo received a beautiful feed from Josh Bailey at the top of the crease for his second goal of the period and of the season.
Seemingly giddy because they finally remembered what it’s like to score again, the Islanders decided to do it for a third time within the first twenty minutes.
Okposo thanked Grabner for assisting him on his opening goal of the game by doing the same for Grabner late in the first period, giving Grabner a wide open shot from the right circle with only 1:31 left in the first period. On Grabners’ sixth goal of the season, Okposo registered his third point of the night in the first period, tying his season total of three points in his first 15 games.
The team, as a whole, didn’t play too well in the first period as they finished down by two scores. In an attempt to shift momentum entering the second period, Peter Laviolette pulled Bryzgalov and put in Bobrovsky. Bryzgalov had six saves on nine shots in his twenty minutes of work on the night.
Laviolette’s plan worked as Scott Hartnell blew a slapper short-side past DiPietro to cut the Flyers’ deficit to one. Claude Giroux dropped the puck to Jakub Voracek, who let go of a slap shot just inside the blue line. His shot was deflected into the corner and the puck bounced back towards the slot, where Hartnell lifted his ninth goal of the season right under the crossbar.
Although they dictated play for the remainder of the period, the Flyers entered the third period trailing 3-2. Bobrovsky made sure the deficit was just one, stoning an open chance by John Tavares with 3 1/2 minutes to play.
With the majority of the period spent in the offensive zone, the Flyers weren’t producing any goals as time slowly slipped away. Just when it seemed as though the Flyers weren’t going to tie the game, a fortunate bounce gave Briere the puck right in front of DiPietro which led to the tying goal.
As Briere wrapped the puck around the boards, it took a funny bounce behind DiPietro and bounced back into the crease. Missing his opportunity to cover the puck, DiPietro instead let the disc roll off his glove and right to Briere, who roofed it for his sixth goal of the season with only 5:42 left in regulation.
Briere’s goal pushed the game to overtime, which didn’t start out promising for the Flyers. It took Hartnell only 21 seconds to take a neutral-zone hooking penalty on Travis Hamonic to put the Flyers on the 4-on-3 disadvantage.
Bobrovsky made several crucial saves while Max Talbot and Meszaros made some crucial clears as the Flyers killed Hartnell’s minor. Shortly after Hartnell left the box, the Flyers produced their one and only shot of the overtime period.
As Bobrovsky made a handful of saves after the penalty kill ended, Coburn found a way to wrap the puck around the end boards to start a rush for Hartnell and Briere. Entering the offensive zone skating next to each other, Hartnell made a drop-pass to Briere. Taking a few strides forward, Briere then darted to the slot, where he ripped home the game-winning wrist shot past DiPietro for the Flyers 4-3 win in overtime.
The turning point in the game took place in between the first and second period. Laviolette’s decision to switch Bryzgalov with Bobrovsky paid off as Bob saved all 23 shots he saw and the Flyers out scored the Isles 3-0 after the first period.
Laviolette is very good at deciding when to switch a struggling netminder as the first time he switched goalies this year the Flyers overcame a 5-1 deficit in a crazy 9-8 loss against the Jets. His decision to switch goalies didn’t just switch tonight’s momentum, but shifted how the Flyers will now enter their match-up against the Canadiens on Friday.
Meszaros had a strong game for Philly tonight. After netting the opening goal, Meszaros was all over the ice tonight making good keeps and playing excellent defense. In a game where the Flyers’ defense needed a player to step up, Meszaros came through in the absence of Chris Pronger.
Briere didn’t play the best sixty minutes, but he did come up clutch once again. With his team down late in regulation, Briere followed up on a play that looked innocent and found a way to tie the game for his team. Then, in overtime, Briere seized the lone opportunity for the Flyers in overtime and grabbed Philly the additional point tonight.
Seven goals at this point in the season isn’t the worst start, but it’s much less than what is expected out of Briere. Perhaps tonight’s performance jump starts Briere on a scoring rampage.
The Flyers don’t play tomorrow, and in a rare instance the whole NHL is on hiatus, but they return to action against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday at 3 PM in South Philly.
Notes: The Flyers have now won seven straight games against the Islanders and 25 of the last 27 meetings…They have also taken three straight in Long Island…Okposo’s goal at the 37-second mark was the Islanders first goal in 142:22…Jaromir Jagr left the game in the second period with another lower-body injury in his first game back from a suspected groin pull suffered against the Coyotes last week…This was Briere’s second two-goal game of the season, with his first came in the Flyers’ 9-8 loss to the Jets…Coburn got two assists tonight for his first two-assist game since February 20…Tonight was Okposo’s first two-goal game since February 1st…Grabner had his first three-point game for the first time since February 13…His first assist tonight ended a four game pointless streak…The Flyers have been outscored 8-2 in their last three first periods, including tonight…Philadelphia won for the first time all season when trailing after two periods, and are now 1-6-0 in those games..The Flyers are now 1-0-0 against the Islanders on the season and 2-0-1 against the Atlantic Division altogether (PIT 0-0-0, NYR 0-0-0, NJD 1-0-1, NYI 1-0-0).