Thursday, February 05, 2015

Kimmo news no salve as Islanders frustrate Flyers for third time

Philadelphia, PA --  So close, yet so far away.

Having shocked many with a 4-for-4 performance during their current five-game home stand, and then jumping out to a two-goal lead, it seemed like a corner might finally be turned on this maddening season.

The only thing standing in the way, apparently, was a superior opponent.

Cal Clutterbuck tied the game late in the second period and then scored in the seventh round of the shootout as the resurgent New York Islanders rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2, on Thursday.

“It’s not my primary objective, but you want to help the team, especially when the team is on a bit of a streak here,” Clutterbuck said. “For me, it was nice to get the monkey off the back a bit, it was good.”

Mikhail Grabovski also lit the lamp in the second stanza for the Isles, who snapped a three-game skid and vaulted over the idle Penguins once again to claim first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Jaroslav Halak stopped 16-of-18 shots for New York, which posted its third win in three tries against Philly. It was a much tighter contest than the free-flowing 7-4 win for the hosts on Jan. 19, but the result the same.

Nick Schultz and Chris VandeVelde scored for the Flyers, who had a four-game winning streak snapped. Steve Mason made 28 saves but continued his stretch of above-average play which has kept his team from wilting during a 5-2-0 stretch.

"We left the extra point out there, obviously. We shot ourselves in the foot at the end of the second period with their two goals off our mistakes," Mason said. 

Before the bad news hit, good news arrived. The team announced during the first intermission that defenseman Kimmo Timonen will begin skating Friday. The 39-year-old has not played since being diagnosed with blood clots in his leg and lungs in his native Finland back in early August.

“Obviously every time you step on the ice there’s risk, but we all feel the risk is minimal,” said Flyers GM Ron Hextall. “So the plan as of now is that he skates tomorrow morning, by himself, and we’ll go from there.”

Once Timonen takes to the ice in Voorhees, it will mark the first time in eight months that the veteran has laced up the skates. His condition being chronic, means that the Finnish blueliner first has to see how his body responds to exertion before any thoughts of game action are entertained.

“We have a plan … I think the biggest thing for you to need to know is the bleeding factor," he said.  "I’ve seen a couple articles that say ‘What happens if Kimmo gets cut on the ice?’ There’s no bleeding factor because on game days I can’t be on blood thinners.”

One chilling reminder of the seriousness of the issue, was Timonen's matter-of-fact recitation that the clots which remain, not fully dissolved, will remain in place. It means that doctors have enough faith that the clots, at least for now, won't be dislodged. 

Trailing 2-0 midway through the second, the Islanders tied the game with two goals in the final 3:12 of the period.

Grabovski put the Islanders on the board at 16:48, beating Mason from the left circle. About two minutes later, Clutterbuck jammed home a rebound to make it 2-2.

Frans Nielsen beat Mason on the first shot of the shootout, but Wayne Simmonds scored on Philadelphia's last tying attempt in the third round. After Clutterbuck scored to start the seventh round, Halak stopped Sean Couturier to secure the victory.

The Islanders improved to 7-1 in shootouts this season, while the Flyers fell to 2-6.

Schultz scored off Vincent Lecavalier's pass from behind the net at the 5:43 mark of the first period. Islanders Josh Bailey and Travis Hamonic collided at their blue line and Lecavalier jumped on the loose puck on the left wing. He tried putting a shot on net, but his attempt hit Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk and went off the side of the net. Lecavalier retrieved the loose puck and dished into the slot for the successful chance.

VandeVelde gave Philadelphia a 2-0 lead at 11:38 of the second when his shot from the right circle got past Halak.

Notes: The Flyers had won three straight over the Islanders at home and were looking for their first clean sweep of a residency lasting at least five games since Nov. 3-12, 2005. (WAS, ATL, BOS, NYI, FLA) ... Each team went 0-for-1 on the power play ... Philadelphia center Scott Laughton and defenseman Nicklas Grossmann returned to the lineup Thursday. Laughton missed the previous seven games with a concussion, while Grossmann missed 10 contests with a shoulder injury ... Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto's six-game point streak ended, the longest for a club's blueliner since Kim Johnsson went eight in a row with at least one point from Oct. 13-31, 2001.
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