With entire practices dedicated to it, an endless stream of questions surrounding it, and the fact that its led by one of the league’s top offenses, the Flyers’ power play was sure to break through eventually. After going 2 for its last 41 chances (see “Power Outage” in yesterday’s game recap), it just had to be due, right? To the relief of all, it was.
For the first time since November 13th, the Flyers’ power play contributed two goals in what was a very important win – they had scored three goals on the man advantage during that stretch.
The start of the game had some worrisome signs, as the Flyers seemed uninterested in the opening few minutes, seemingly expecting this Islanders team – ranked dead last in the NHL – to just roll over and hand them this lazy Sunday win.
It took a stellar shift by the Leino – Briere – Hartnell line to spark the team. Their impressive forecheck held the Islanders in their end for more than a minute straight, with the play only stopping thanks to a puck tipped out over the glass.
This must have caught the rest of the team’s attention, as they had a considerable amount of jump in their step in the minutes that followed. Soon enough, they had their chance on the power play, albeit an abbreviated one thanks to a Flyers penalty that preceded it.
As the seconds ticked off and the penalty officially ended, the Flyers capitalized on what was still a man advantage when Matt Carle threw a puck on net and between the legs of Dwayne Roloson for a much-needed lead.
The Islanders didn’t give up easily, though, as they came out with some chances of their own in the second period. The hardest test of all for the Flyers was a stretch of 5-on-3 play just past the midpoint. The Flyers continued to swarm the puck carriers, and, with some help from Sergei Bobrovsky, kept the Islanders off the board.
Unfortunately, a pair of fast breaks in the third gave the Islanders what they needed – a tying goal and a go-ahead goal, separated by a mere 36 seconds. The first was tipped in by Jon Sim as he crashed the crease and drove Bobrovsky back into his net, and the second was a shot that sneaked under the blocker and trickled across, despite the whistle seemingly blowing the play dead.
But the Flyers power play wasn’t done. On its lone third period chance, Andreas Nodl cashed in when he flipped a loose puck over Roloson’s shoulder following a blocked shot on Andrej Meszaros.
Yet again, the Briere line stepped up to spark the Flyers’ offense with a fast turnaround in the neutral zone to spring a 2-on-1 with Leino and Briere, where Danny Briere beat Roloson for the game winning goal – his team leading 14th of the season.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Power Play Success: Hopefully the funk that kept this man advantage unit from scoring the goals it’s supposed to is over, as the team scored on two of its four chances (with the first not technically being scored as such). They got the team going with their first period tally, as sparked the comeback in the second half of the third, down a goal. To come out of the gate with this, and then to work under the pressure of a late game deficit is a huge showing the Flyers’ power play, which seems to have turned the corner towards success.
Leino – Briere – Hartnell: As the Flyers’ most consistent and successful line, this trio got the offense started, built the momentum that led to a first period lead, and came through in the clutch with the ultimate game winner in the final minutes of the game. Their impressive play throughout the game called to mind images of their amazing run through last year’s playoffs – and if they can hit that stride again, the Flyers should have no trouble rebuilding the gap between them and the rest of the division.