Maybe the Islanders were sometimes not as disciplined or defensively healthy as they would like to be. It did not matter. They had Ilya Sorokin.
The goalkeeper brilliantly dismissed several odd-man rushes to make 26 saves as the Islanders welcomed back coach Barry Trotz from the COVID-19 protocol with a 4-1 win over the meandering Flyers Monday night at UBS Arena for to end a 5-1-1 home run.
The teams, which play three times in nine days, conclude this home-and-home series on Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
The Islanders in last place (12-13-6), who have played the fewest games in the NHL, moved within 16 points of the last wildcard place in the Eastern Conference and within three points of the Flyers in sixth place (13). -18-7), which is in a 0-6-2 slip. The Flyers went 0-to-4 on the powerplay with just three shots.
The Islanders’ menacing task of playing back in the playoffs certainly seems daunting.
But that’s not how the team sees it.
“I do not think it is overwhelming at all,” Mathew Barzal said. “We know we have a ton of games in hand. We know there are about 50 games left in the season. We have also been in situations before where we have been down or out of a playoff spot and fought our way. This team has gained a lot of resilience and a lot of character. “
It certainly helps that their goalkeeping has solidified. Semyon Varlamov stopped 34 of 35 shots in Saturday’s otherwise disappointing 2-0 loss to the visiting Capitals and is likely to start on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Sorokin is 5-1-1 since December 7 and has allowed two or fewer goals in five of those matches.
Despite the flip-flops, Kieffer Bellows and Josh Bailey put Bellows on Barzal’s right wing, while Bailey was reunited with Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier. Bellows had two goals and two assists in his last five games, but communication on the ice between him and the free-running, creative Barzal was lacking early on. It seemed to get better as the game progressed.
The Flyers, like the Islanders, have struggled through a roller coaster season. Coach Alain Vigneault was fired on December 6 after an eighth loss in a row and replaced on a temporary basis by Mike Yeo.
But not much has changed for them.
The Islanders took a two-goal lead in another period where both teams played some loose defense before the Flyers’ Travis Konecny made it 2-1 at 17:12 with a cross-is-feed from the right that deflected Sorokin from the defender. Noah Dobson’s shoulder. Sorokin then denied Joel Farabee an outburst at 6 p.m. 19:00 to maintain that lead.
Anthony Beauvillier pushed it to 3-1 at 4:44 in the third period as he disconnected from the slow on a delayed penalty kick. Matt Martin’s empty net player at 18:37 in the third period completed the scoring.
Sorokin also slid to the right to get an arm on Scott Laughton’s close shot from a two-on-no-rush with Farabee 46 seconds inside the second period. He also made two saves on the Flyers’ shorthanded rushes during the period, and Laughton also hit the post shorthanded.
Brock Nelson’s team-leading 11th goal gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at. 11:44 in the second period as he sent a rising wrist shot past Martin Jones (27 saves) as he used Flyers defender Rasmus Ristolainen as a screen. Casey Cizikas then tipped defender Robin Salo’s blue-line shot past Jones to a 2-0 lead at 14:28. Cizikas’ first goal of the season was his first in 44 games.
Zach Parise, still looking for his second goal as an islander, was stopped on a shorthanded attempt from the left after Jean-Gabriel Pageau rushed the puck up with the ice at 9:14 in the first period.
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