While these certainly aren’t your father’s Islanders — a franchise that ruled the NHL in the early 1980s by winning four consecutive Cups — they are clearly no longer the league’s 98-pound weakling team.
The Flyers learned that the hard way Thursday, as the Isles outplayed them and outworked them from the start at both ends in a 4-1 win.
Matt Moulson, after having a first-period goal disallowed for kicking the puck into the net, made no mistake early in the second to break a 0-0 tie. Then, after Sergei Bobrovsky stood tall against an array of breakaways, Josh Bailey made it 2-0 on a short-handed breakaway late in the second.
“I don’t think the first two periods we supported each other very well,” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “We left one man to try to figure it out. This game we needed to be better. We talked before the game that this team had beaten the Red Wings and was playing better. It’s unacceptable. It wasn’t good enough.”
But don’t blame Bobrovsky, as the Flyers backup netminder continued to stake his claim for No. 1. Bob put on a spectacular performance, including stops on three clean breakaways and others to keep his team in the game
Down 2-0 late in the second, after Bailey backhanded one over Bobrovksy, the Flyers’ frustration boiled over when Claude Giroux got into it with Dylan Reese, his first fight of the season.
Giroux returned just in time for another power play early in the third, but the Flyers couldn’t get it by Evgeni Nabokov, a goaltender they considered signing in 2010.
Instead, it was the Islanders connecting with the man advantage. Mark Streit drilled one that ricocheted off Bobrovsky’s right shoulder into the net to make it 3-0.
The Flyers finally got on the board thanks to Matt Read’s deflection at 10:48, then proceeded to swarm Nabokov in the final nine minutes. Michael Grabner scored into an empty net with one second left.
“On home ice, to play the first two periods the way we did was unacceptable,” Read said. “We shouldn’t be happy with this. We have to learn from it.”
What went wrong
1. All good things.
Not since April 7, 2007, had the Islanders won in this building, and it was the Isles’ fifth straight win over the Orange and Black that season. Braydon Coburn was the only player for either team left from that game. Since then the Flyers had won 23 of the last 24, including 16 straight in Philadelphia.
2. What about Bob?
Sergei Borovsky came into this one never having lost to the Islanders in seven starts, while compiling a 1.86 goals against average. He certainly did his part again in this one, stopping 23 shots, including three breakaways and several others from point-blank range. But the Flyers’ offense couldn’t crack Evgeni Nabokov until it was too late.
3. Only a matter of time.
Not only were the Flyers ineffective on the power play — they finished 0-for-4 — but they were constantly victimized by the Islanders springing players free on short-handed breakaways. After Bobrovsky held the fort on Michael Grabner and John Tavares, Josh Bailey finally made him pay and gave the Isles some needed insurance.