Couturier Scores Late, Flyers Win Eighth Straight Against Islanders

Sean Couturier’s goal late in the contest gave the Flyers a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders tonight in Long Island. The rookie’s eighth goal of the season gave him his third straight game with a tally, as the Flyers earned their fourth win in their last five games. Goals from Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds helped Sergei Bobrovsky earn his second straight win with a 33-save effort.

John Tavares recorded his 15th goal of the season in the final minute of play and assisted on Kyle Okposo’s tally earlier in the period, while Andrew MacDonald notched a two-assist night to serve as the only players in the game with two points. Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves in the loss as the goaltender must wait for his next start to try and earn his 300th career win in the NHL.

As for the game-winning goal, Couturier provided a brilliant shot to extend the Flyers’ lead to 3-1 with 90 seconds remaining in regulation. Due to Tavares’ goal 1:14 later, Couturier was awarded his first game-winner in the NHL.

Couturier pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone and entered the Isles’ zone with Matt Read accompanying him across the ice. After he displayed patience waiting for Mark Streit to drop to the ice in an attempt to break up the possible cross ice pass, Couturier ripped a shot by Nabokov’s glove and top corner.

A little over a minute later, Tavares was the benefactor of a beautiful passing play, as the talented New York forward showed forehand in the slot before putting home a backhander over Bobrovsky’s left leg pad with 16 seconds left.

To start their first power play of the night, Philly allowed Michael Grabner to steal a loose puck in the neutral zone and head in on Bobrovsky all by himself. Kimmo Timonen hooked Grabner to deny the fast forward from registering a shot on net, but handed Grabner a penalty shot by doing so.

With the penalty shot, Grabner slowly skated in on Bobrovsky before releasing a shot that was ultimately denied by the goalie’s blocker.

Shortly after the power play, Hartnell was hit in the skate by a Jaromir Jagr shot. After trying to finish his shift, Hartnell circled away from the play and headed towards Philly’s bench. He was fine and returned for his next shift.

With their ensuing power play, the Flyers took the game’s first lead with a deflection from Hartnell in the slot.

Giroux, who was skating towards the blue line, slid a pass cross ice to Jagr. Releasing a shot from the upper section of the circle furthest from the players’ benches, Jagr created a shot that Hartnell was able to deflect by Nabokov for his 19th goal of the season with 2:40 left in the period.

Hartnell pushed MacDonald and received a whack from Hamonic while returning to the bench after the goal as he, Giroux, and Jagr all broke their three-game scoring droughts.

Although they were out shot 12-8, Philly found a way to earn the lead late in the first period as they, for a change, were on the beneficial sides of a non-call and a bad call within the game’s first 20 minutes.

Following a minute that featured two heavy checks from Matt Martin, and a third attempt which resulted in Martin nailing the glass, Grabner extended his offensive frustration on the night with another stop from Bobrovsky.

Breaking in on Bobrovsky all by himself, Grabner let go of a hard wrister labeled top corner. Bobrovsky had other plans, as the netminder emphatically gloved down the puck in a sprawling effort to keep Philly’s one-goal lead intact.

Minutes later, after Read was hit in the face with a wrap-around clearing attempt by an Islander in the offensive zone, Simmonds provided Philly with a 2-0 lead with a strange goal from the corner.

After hassling Nabokov behind the net into a bad clearing attempt, Simmonds helped to keep the puck in the offensive zone before throwing a puck towards the net, which banked in off Nabokov’s right leg pad and in. Simmonds’ 11th of the season gave Philly a two-goal lead with 6:52 left in the middle stanza.

A problem Philly has been having as of late is their ability to hold on to a lead late in the game. Okposo’s tally in the first minute of the third period provided the Flyers’ faithful with the feeling of yet another third-period collapse.

After MacDonald circled Bobrovsky’s net, he threw the puck to the slot, where it deflected off Martin’s skate andOkposo eventually whacked home his 10th goal of the season 22 seconds in.

The goal gave the Islanders some life, as New York continued to throw shots at Bobrovsky in a vain attempt to tie the score.

Later on in the period, Isles defenseman Steve Staios looked to deliver a forearm to the head of Max Talbot in Philly’s defensive zone. Talbot laid on the ice for a minute, but was fine when he returned to bench. Despite a brief confrontation with Peter Laviolette, the refs deemed there was no infraction on the play.

Following Talbot’s blow was the exchanging of Couturier’s and Tavares’ goals.

After Tavares’ goal, the final 16 seconds ticked off the clock, as the Flyers kept the Islanders from striking again and held on for the 3-2 road win.

The game saw questionable officiating, but it may have actually helped the Flyers this time. After the non-call and questionable call in favor of Philly in the first, the refs seemingly put their whistles away in the second period, as teams exchanged several plays that could have resulted in power plays for the opposition. This kind of play seemed to keep the teams from exploding offensively and allowed the Flyers to win the close affair.

Bobrovsky came through with another strong performance tonight, as he won his fifth decision in his last six starts. With the exceptions of Okposo’s garbage goal and Tavares’ goal extremely late in a two-goal game, Bobrovsky was flawless. Nothing in his performance tonight should motivate Laviolette to lean towards starting Ilya Bryzgalov in the Flyers’ next game, in Nashville on Saturday.

Notes: The Flyers have won eight straight games against the Islanders and 26 out of their last 28 games against New York, including five straight in Uniondale…Hartnell has four goals in the Flyers’ last three games against the Islanders…Thursday was the second time all season Philly has been outshot by double digits and won the game (outshot 40-27 in win over the Canucks on October 12). Its the lowest shot total the Flyers have posted in a win this season…Bobrovsky, whose save percentage was .943, has posted a save percentage of .900 or better in his last nine decisions (7-2-0). Bryzgalov has posted a .900 save percentage or better in three of his last nine decisions…The win improved the Flyers’ record to 2-0-0 against the Islanders and to 5-3-1 against the rest of the Atlantic Division…The win improved the Flyers’ record to 26-12-4. They were 27-10-5 after 42 games last season.