UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Remember back in the days when the Flyers were the team with lots of chances and very few goals?
Well, apparently the hockey gods do, too.
Despite two of their more prolific players missing with injuries, or playing their third game in four days, the Flyers defeated the Islanders, 4-1, Sunday afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum.
They did so with big games from several of their bottom-six forwards taking on bigger roles, specifically Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl. And they did it behind a steadfast and sometimes spectacular performance from 33-year-old Brian Elliott, who stopped 29 of 30 shots, allowing this game to look more lopsided than it had played out.
Elliott is now 7-1-6 lifetime against the Islanders.
The Flyers have two days off before hosting Washington Wednesday night. With the Isles’ loss and their own 3-2 shootout win Sunday, the Caps took sole possession of first place in the Metro Division. With 16 games remaining on the schedule, the Flyers again closed to within five points of the final wild-card berth.
The Flyers took an unlikely 2-0 first period lead. Unlikely, because they did so without the services of Jake Voracek and, quickly, Nolan Patrick. Voracek was ruled out with what Flyers interim coach Scott Gordon described as a game-time lower body injury. He underwent an MRI before the game, Gordon said, but the team did not release the results of that test.
Patrick left the ice 4:01 into the first period after blocking Cal Clutterbuck’s slap shot with the side of his head. He received stitches over an ear and did not return, although Gordon said he was in good spirits in the dressing room between periods. It marked the third consecutive game Patrick has been helped off the ice with an injury. (He returned in Friday night’s 6-3 victory over New Jersey.)
That forced Gordon, who was mixing-and-matching already from the very first shift, to treat this game as if it was a session of open hockey. Guys jumped over the boards in all types of combos. And the weird thing is, it worked.
``I think I played literally with everyone today,'' said Travis Konecny, who scored his 21st goal at 8:21 of the first period with Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl as his linemates. Travis Sanheim’s muscle goal at 14:59 – he literally pushed 5-11, 182-pound winger Anthony Beauvillier out of his way before roofing a loose puck over goalie Robin Lehner – came with Couturier centering a line of Claude Giroux and Oskar Lindblom.
It was Sanheim’s fourth goal in his last four games, giving him nine for the season – tops among the team’s defensemen. Meanwhile, Ivan Provorov continued his second-half resurgence. He was on the ice for the Flyers’ four goals.
Laughton, who just missed on a cut-across-the-slot play two nights before in New Jersey, this time tucked one past Lehner at 3:18 of the second period for his ninth goal to push the lead to 3-0.
It ended the day for Lehner, who was replaced by Thomas Greiss. And it came moments after Elliott had made an outstanding save on a tip-in try by Brock Nelson. Elliott was sharp from start to finish, sometimes single-handedly thwarting New York’s plays from behind his net, deadening many of the rebounds that led to his so-so performance in a 4-3 overtime loss to Columbus on Thursday.
``There were a couple big blocked shots,'' Elliott said. ``That was big for me. They have some big bodies in front of the net, trying to tip everything. We took care of that and when we had to get it out we got it out."