UNIONDALE, NY- Bob Nystrom and Ed Hospodar didn’t come out of retirement to fight on the Nassau Coliseum ice last night.
But the current Islanders and Flyers harkened memories of when the Islander dynasty teams used to battle the Broad Street Bullies two decades ago. Unlike those four Stanley Cup winning teams, the Isles couldn’t close the deal thanks to three Flyer third-period goals in a 4-3 shootout loss.
Mike Richards’ backhand goal in the second round of the shootout put the Flyers ahead in the skills competition and Martin Biron (30 saves) made it stand up, blanking Mark Streit’s attempt to secure Philadelphia’s victory.
Despite playing only for pride, the Isles still picked up a point against a playoff bound opponent for a second straight night and accomplished the feat with flying fisticuffs. Yet the Flyers erased a 2-0 third period deficit with three third-period goals in a 3:34 span, led by Joffrey Lupul’s two goals. The Islanders power play struggled, going 0-4.
Radek Martinek and Jeff Tambellini helped the Isles surge to a 2-0 lead one night after the club knocked off the defending champion Red Wings in Detroit. Goalie Yann Danis (33 saves) helped the Isles extend the team’s shutout streak to 105:41 before Lupul’s right circle shot beat him to cut the lead to 2-1 4:24 into the final period.
“I thought we played well enough to win,” Danis said. “Overall, we came out strong, especially with back-to-back games. We certainly deserved better.”
Philadelphia tied it 2:14 later. Danis made a pad save on Jeff Carter’s right circle shot that bounced right to Scott Hartnell for the redirect. Danis got a piece of the rebound but couldn’t prevent it from trickling past the goal line. Lupul’s second tally almost a minute and a half later gave the visitors a 3-2 lead. Streit salvaged a point for the Isles when his hard shot in the slot beat Biron 49 seconds later.
“It was great,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said regarding the effort level. “With the exception of not stepping up on the power play and not scoring, we could’ve had a pretty big lead after two periods. We got some tough bounces in the third. I think the first one, Yann would probably want back.”
Following Joey MacDonald’s 42-save shutout performance, Danis blanked a contending Flyers team through two periods before facing a third-period onslaught. The Isles also engaged the Flyers in an emotionally charged contest that featured four fights, including three in a 3:16 span during the second period.
“It’s an infectious thing when there is confrontation and hitting,” coach Scott Gordon said. “The more physical you are, the more exception the opposition takes to it. Our team is more engaged in the game.”
The two teams combined for 70 penalty minutes just after the game’s midway point before the flow of the game changed course. Instead of free-wheeling fights and post-whistle scrums, the teams did not rack up a single penalty minute in the third period or overtime.
“We’ve been playing a lot better,” Islanders rookie forward Kyle Okposo said. “We know we can win
with the guys in this locker room.
“It was a lot of fun to play. Those guys needed the points. We wanted to come in and beat them. Hopefully next year, we’ll be able to jockey for position with those guys.”
Gordon’s team will likely finish the season last in the NHL in points. But the first-year head coach has his team playing with passion and a chip on its collective shoulders that seems to grow exponentially as the season unfolds. The Isles lost to Minnesota Wednesday in a game that featured two fights and eight roughing minors. A more controlled, tight-to-the vest style paved the way for a gritty 2-0 victory over Detroit, which entered Saturday tied with San Jose for the league’s most points at 107.
Instead of a road-weary effort, the Isles came out strong against Philadelphia, which is entrenched in the Eastern Conference’s fourth spot. The Flyers (92 points) stayed in that position, moving one point ahead of No. 5 Carolina with eight games remaining. The Isles have 59 points with seven games left.
“If we don’t take care of ourselves then it doesn’t really matter what anyone else is doing,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “We’ve just got to take care of ourselves.”
Doug Weight picked up a rare fighting major, dropping the gloves against Darroll Powe just minutes into the game behind the Islanders net.
“I mentioned it all year that the maturation of the team is moving quickly,” Weight said. “If we can be a healthy team come October next year, I believe they’ll be some real good things here.”
Nate Thompson and Joel Rechlicz, the more conventional heavyweight fighters on the roster, participated in more prolonged battles in the third. Thompson and Daniel Carcillo earned an ovation from the crowd for a prolonged fight 6:02 into the second. Just one second later-off the ensuing faceoff-Rechlicz and Riley Cote exchanged haymakers that left both players with welts around the eyes heading into the cramped penalty box.