Flyers stay alive, outlast Islanders, 4-3
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault challenged Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk on Tuesday afternoon, saying it was "their turn to put the big-boy pants on."
The struggling veteran forwards responded.
So did Scott Laughton, who scored in overtime to give the Flyers a pulsating 4-3 win over the New York Islanders and put their obituary on hold Tuesday night at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena.
Laughton, playing on the top line because Sean Couturier was injured in the second period, redirected Ivan Provorov's point drive to give the Flyers the dramatic victory.
Giroux, van Riemsdyk, and defenseman Matt Niskanen scored their first goals of the postseason for the Flyers.
The Islanders lead the Eastern Conference semifinals, three games to two, and will try to end the series Thursday.
When trailing postseason series 3-2 in franchise history, the Flyers are just 3-17.
Niskanen took a slick cross-ice feed from Travis Konecny and whipped a right-circle blast into the net to put the Flyers ahead, 3-1, with 15:28 left in regulation. Niskanen was out of position on two Islanders goals in the Flyers' 3-2 loss in Game 4, but he had a strong bounce-back game.
But the Isles showed why they have outscored opponents 21-6 in the third period of these playoffs, including a 10-2 domination over the Flyers in that stanza. They scored two goals in a 1:33 span to send the game into OT.
With Carter Hart unable to make a big stop, the Islanders got goals from Brock Nelson with 4:14 left and Derick Brassard with 2:41 to go, knotting the game at 3 and setting the stage for the OT heroics.
Hart, brilliant during most of the postseason, regrouped. He robbed Devon Toews with 18:24 left in overtime after Kevin Hayes put one shot off iron and was stopped by Semyon Varlamov on a point-blank attempt.
Hart then denied Brock Nelson, who broke in alone, with 15:45 to go in OT.
After Tuesday's morning skate, Vigneault, looking for a good omen, mentioned that Giroux and van Riemsdyk were with the Flyers when they overcame a 3-0 series deficit against Boston in 2010.
At that time, Giroux and van Riemsdyk were like several young players on this year's team, such as Joel Farabee, Konecny, Ivan Provorov, and Phil Myers, Vigneault said.
"They definitely found a way to contribute," Vigneault said. "Now, it's their turn to put the big-boy pants on. ... It's a great opportunity for those guys to step to the forefront."
Giroux and van Riemsdyk did just that.
Giroux redirected Myers' point drive through the legs of Varlamov to tie the game at 1 with 4:15 left in the second period.
It was just his second goal in his last 27 playoff games.
About 2 1/2 minutes later, van Riemsdyk got on the score sheet, converting Scott Laughton's two-on-one pass to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead with 1:42 remaining in the second.
In the first period, the Flyers failed to finish some golden chances, and the Islanders took the lead on Josh Bailey's power-play goal with 18:40 left in the second. The Isles cashed in on Derek Grant's ill-advised tripping penalty in the neutral zone.
Bailey scored from the side of the net, with bodies scrambling to get off the ice in the blue paint after Tyler Pitlick pushed the Isles' Mathew Barzal into Hart. The Flyers challenged for goalie interference, but it was denied, and the Isles went back on the power play for a delay-of-game penalty.
The Flyers dominated the first period, but as has been the case throughout the series, failed to capitalize on some great scoring chances. As a result, the teams left the ice in a scoreless tie after the opening 20 minutes.
"We created a few turnovers and were able to attack on them," Giroux said after the first period. "If we keep doing that, we'll be in a good spot."
The Flyers had a huge advantage in shots (11-4), shot attempts (26-13), and zone time in the first period.
A little over three minutes into the game, Pitlick, who was promoted to the second line while Konecny was dropped to the third unit in the first period, was stopped in front by Varlamov as he tried to deposit a rebound of Kevin Hayes' shot.
Varlamov also made good saves on Myers from the left circle, Jake Voracek on a redirection, and Giroux on a long wrist shot. The goalie was out of position and fortunate that Couturier, following up Giroux's shot, put the rebound off the left post with 5:29 left in the first.