Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bobrovsky left out to dry as Islanders snap long skid in Philly

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor
Nearly five years have passed since the Islanders tasted victory in Philadelphia. On a night where they snapped that streak, you'd expect that the home team would have put up more of a fight.

But it was not to be as New York's road losing skid here ended at 13 games with a 4-1 victory over the Flyers on Thursday.

Sergei Bobrovsky was largely left to fend for himself against a swift set of forwards who are not afraid to use their speed or exploit gaps in the defense. He acquitted himself well, stopping 23-of-26 shots -- many of those wide-open chances.

“We just left him hung out to dry too many times,” a stone-faced Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said. “We didn’t support each other well for the first two periods. We left one man to figure things out for himself. It’s unacceptable. We weren’t good enough the first two periods.”

Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson, Josh Bailey and Mark Streit provided the offense and Evgeni Nabokov turned in a 40-save performance.

Matt Read took over the rookie goal-scoring lead with his third-period tally, but Philly suffered a potentially debilitating loss heading into a huge back-to-back situation.

New Jersey is on the menu first, on Saturday afternoon in Newark, then the defending champion Bruins come to call on South Broad Street on Sunday afternoon.

After several shifts of pressure in the opening minutes, the visitors appeared to have scored first, as a Tavares centering pass redirected off Moulson's skate in the slot and hit the back of the net at the 6:44 mark. But, upon closer inspection, Moulson clearly directed the puck forward with his back skate and it shouldn't have taken as long as it did to wave off the goal.

It had a galvanizing effect on the Islanders, who sprang into action and took the play to an increasingly listless home club.

Tavares was the first to really test Bobrovsky, as he just hung out a stride shy of the Flyers' blue line then broke in alone before putting an uninspiring shot into the goaltender's chest with 1:50 to play in the first.

Philly was lucky to escape with a scoreless deadlock, but the luck began to run out at the 28-second mark of the second, as a Tavares pass from behind the goal line missed Kyle Okposo, but found Moulson for an open wrister from between the circles.

Things began to unravel further after Nino Niederreiter was sent off for a high stick at the three-minute mark, and Grabner picked the cherries but was stoned on a breakaway seconds into advantage.

Later in the power play, Jakub Voracek found the best chance of the game sitting at his feet, but Nabokov flashed his pad at the right post to shunt away that shot.

Then, it was Tavares again, sitting on a great opportunity with Streit in the box for tripping and seconds after an elbowing minor to Andrej Meszaros expired. He was unable to slide the disc through Bobrovsky, who gave him little at which to shoot.

A third opportunity arose with 7 1/2 minutes remaining for Tavares, as he deked multiple times while trying to decoy a pass on the left wing, but Bobrovsky fell backwards and turned away the shot with his pad.

The luck finally ran out as Dylan Reese cooled off with a holding penalty shortly thereafter, as a cheating Bailey smartly waited until the last second to lift the puck under the crossbar for a short-handd breakaway goal at 12:58.

And then, something snapped in Claude Giroux, who threw down with Reese with 2:19 left in the second to the hoots and hollers of the suddenly-interested throng. It still wasn't enough of a shock to the system.

This time on the advantage, Streit's shot from the right circle slipped between the arm and body of Bobrovsky and it was all but academic at 7:07 of the third period which made it a 3-0 game for New York.

But consolation -- and precedent -- existed for a comeback. On March 6, 1999, the Flyers were down 3-0 to a weaker Isles club than this and pumped home three goals in the final 3:02 of regulation to escape with a 3-3 tie.

You can bet nobody with any control of the game knew it, but somehow, that three-goal margin jolted the current crop to life. Each successive shift got them closer and closer to Nabokov until Sean Couturier's floater from the left circle hit Read in front and caromed into the net with 9:12 remaining.

It seemed a comeback was in the offing as Danny Briere roared in with an odd-man break and narrowly missed tucking the puck inside the right post while following up his own rebound.
The intensity never really seemed to crest, and it caused Bobrovsky to be able to exit the net with just under two minutes left.

But the Islanders and Nabokov continued to foil each surge, and Grabner hit the empty net inside the final second.

“We played hard as we always seem to do against them, but they came in the third and they came in waves, and I thought Nabby (Nabokov) was real good, but again, special teams were a big part of tonight’s game with the short-handed goal and the power-play goal late," said Islanders head coach Jack Capuano. "We played them pretty good at home (in a 3-2 loss last Thursday at Uniondale) and we didn’t get the results, and it was good for the guys to get rewarded.”

The Islanders last won in Philly on April 7, 2007, the final victory in a four-game sweep at the WFC in the 2006-07 campaign...Giroux and Jaromir Jagr both finished with minus-3 and teammate Scott Hartnell was a minus-1...This was just the third win in the last 29 meetings for New York over Philadelphia...Both the Islanders' Boston College alums were unable to participate on Thursday, as forward Marty Reasoner was scratched and Mike Mottau is still battling a concussion...Tavares and P.A. Parenteau both notched a pair of assists for the victors...Couturier's five-game goal streak ended but his point streak was extended to six games.

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