UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol fully expected his team to have tired legs coming into their first preseason game Sunday afternoon against the New York Islanders at the newly renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but his club responded with an effort that likely would have surprised their coach before losing, 3-2, in overtime.
Islanders captain John Tavares made a move in the right circle, cut into the slot and beat Flyers goalie Leland Irving for his second score of the game just 34 seconds into overtime.
The Flyers didn’t come out looking fatigued against an Islanders squad that was a little more loaded with Tavares, Jordan Eberle, Andrew Ladd, Nick Leddy and Anders Lee all suiting up to play. The Flyers drew three first-period penalties that included a 5-on-3 power play for 11 seconds. The two teams completed a scoreless first period with each team putting 11 shots on net.
It didn’t take long for the Flyers to jump out in front, as Mike Vecchione redirected Shayne Gostisbehere’s slap shot from the point in the second period. Although not part of the official record, it was Vecchione’s first NHL goal after signing with the Flyers as a free agent on March 31. He was held pointless in two regular season games in 2016-17.
Jori Lehtera increased that lead to 2-0 as he scooped up a Michael Raffl clearing pass and beat Islanders netminder Kristers Gudlevskis to a loose puck, putting in a backhand into an empty net for the shorthanded goal.
Tavares cut the Flyers' lead in half with a shot that beat Alex Lyon just after the Flyers had killed off Mikhail Vorobyev’s two-minute minor for slashing. Tavares is in the final year of his contract.
Lyon played the first 40 minutes, stopping 19 of the Islanders' 20 shots he faced. Newly acquired Irving replaced Lyon in the third period and promptly stoned Tavares from point-blank range in the opening minute.
On to the observations ...
• The Flyers clearly want Lehtera to get accustomed to playing left wing, a position he wasn't suited for in St. Louis. Lehtera provided a pair of points in his Flyers debut, providing the secondary assist on the game’s first goal. “I want to see how he works,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “He’s probably not the only guy who’s going to have to take a peek on the wing and see how he does. Jori’s a smart player and typically smart players can play on the wing. There’s very few centers who can’t transition there — doesn’t necessarily mean they want to.”
• The Flyers' first power-play unit consisted of Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Matt Read, Gostisbehere and Vorobyev while the second unit consisted of German Rubtsov, Michael Raffl, Lehtera, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov. One noticeable change from years past is an emphasis on better puck movement. The Flyers' second unit was able to open up some cross-ice passing lanes in the opening period.
• Scott Laughton was one of the Flyers' best forwards, making noticeable plays at both ends of the ice, playing strong defensively, winning faceoffs and blocking a big slap shot on an Islanders power play. The line of Laughton-Read-Raffl turned in a solid effort matched up against the Islanders' top line of Eberle-Tavares-Bailey.
• Patrick took the game’s first penalty, a two-minute minor for slashing. Just after that sequence, Konecny exchanged words and a few shoves with Islanders forward Jason Chimera.
• Sunday’s preseason contest was the first game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum since the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs between the Isles and Capitals on April 27, 2015. This marked the Flyers' first game at Nassau since Jan. 19, 2015, a 7-4 Flyers victory. This will be the only game played in the newly renovated arena that was completed back in April.
• Most of the veterans, including Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, went through an early morning practice at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.
• Hextall confirmed the hiring of former Kings general manager Dean Lombardi prior to Sunday's preseason game (see story).
Lines and pairings
F: Oskar Lindblom-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Matt Read-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl
Mike Vecchione-German Rubtsov-Ivan Kosorenkov
Jori Lehtera-Mikhail Vorobyev-Cole Bardreau
D: Ivan Provorov-Philippe Myers
Shayne Gostisbehere-Sam Morin
Robert Hagg-Travis Sanheim