The Philadelphia Flyers tallied three times on the power play and got 32 saves from Martin Biron to defeat the New York Islanders 4-1 in Philadelphia Sunday night. Daniel Briere led the Flyers attack with a goal and two assists while Vaclav Prospal scored once and set up another goal. The biggest difference between the teams was the power play; the Flyers were three-for-five while the Isles were just one-for-seven. The win moved the Flyers past the Boston Bruins and into sole possession of seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead during a five-on-three advantage 12:01 into the game. Prospal tipped the puck behind Isles’ starter, Joey MacDonald, off a pretty pass from Briere as Philadelphia’s second-ranked power play moved the puck well and set up strong scoring chances.
“Their defenseman never put his stick in the passing lane,” Prospal said. “I basically had a wide open net just to shoot at.”
MacDonald was making his first start as an Islander with Wade Dubielewicz serving as backup. Isles’ coach, Ted Nolan wanted to give Dubielewicz a day off since the club is playing back-to-back games and three games in four nights.
“I thought Joey played quite well,” Nolan said. “The goals he let up, I’m not too sure how many goaltenders could get across the crease to stop passes that were wide open, especially in the penalty killing situations.”
The Islanders took command of play in the second period, outshooting the Flyers 15-4 and keeping play in the Philadelphia zone for most of the period. Despite the big disparity in shots, the Isles’ did not have a lot of good scoring chances and were kept largely on the perimeter. Biron made the saves he had to make and the Islanders were unable to score.
The Flyers power play struck again midway through the second period when defenseman Braydon Coburn scored on a one-timer from the face-off circle that made it 2-0 Philadelphia.
“I thought we played okay in the second period,” said a less than enthusiastic Nolan when asked about what was by far his team’s best portion of the game.
Briere’s power play goal 5:34 into the third made it 3-0 Flyers and all but put the game out of reach. Scott Hartnell scored just over two minutes later to make it 4-0 Philadelphia before Miro Satan’s 15th goal of the season ended Biron’s shutout bid with just 4:27 left on the clock.
Nolan was disappointed with the Islanders’ penalty kill. Because of the rash of injuries that has decimated the team, a lot of players saw time shorthanded as the coach searched for players who could best do the job. Rookies Kyle Okposo, Jeremy Colliton and Steve Regier all saw time on the penalty killing unit.
“We left our assignments on the penalty kills,” Nolan admitted. “We talk about the importance of 50-goal scorers but also of defensive defensemen. It hurts to not have a guy like Brendan Witt in the lineup playing against the number two power play in the NHL. The young guys are trying out there. We’ll see who’s working out there and evaluate from there.”
The loss officially eliminated the Islanders from the Eastern Conference playoff race. The rest of the season will give Nolan and GM Garth Snow a chance to look at the young talent in the organization and see how they perform at the NHL level.
“It’s tough to watch sometimes,” Nolan said. “We just need to get back and evaluate it and see who’s stepping up and who’s competing and who’s not.”
The Islanders host the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night at the Coliseum.
Martin Biron is 6-0-0 against the Islanders this season and 14-4-1 in his career.
The Flyers are 13-for-31 (nearly 42 percent) on the power play against the Isles this season.
MacDonald was playing his first game for the Islanders this season. He has played in 15 prior NHL games with the Bruins and Red Wings before signing with the Islanders prior to the start of the current campaign. MacDonald has spent most of the season in Bridgeport.