This one had some extra sting for the Flyers.
Playing in total must-win mode over the final eight games of the season, the Flyers shifted all the momentum during the third period Saturday afternoon to only lose it late for another frustrating loss, this one a 4-2 decision to the Islanders.
Ten minutes after the Flyers (36-31-8) scored a 2-2 equalizer and even had a chance to go ahead on another power play, the Islanders stemmed the tide with two goals from Josh Bailey in the final four minutes.
The Flyers, barely holding on to postseason hope, entered Saturday five points behind the Canadiens for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. The Blue Jackets, who are one point back of Montreal, do not play Saturday, while the Canadiens host the Sabres at 7 p.m. If Montreal wins, the Flyers will be seven points out with seven games to go — close to impossible.
Coming into Saturday, Hockey-Reference.com gave the Flyers a 3.0 percent chance to make the playoffs, while SportsClubStats.com had them at 1.6.
The Islanders (43-25-7), who had lost two straight by a combined score of 9-0, picked up a timely win as they continue to chase first place in the Metropolitan Division.
• The NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast showed Sean Couturier taking a hefty hack at something in the tunnel late in the second period after he left the ice. He had all the right to be furious as he was boarded by Matt Martin but no whistle.
Martin crosschecked Couturier right through his jersey numbers.
Couturier did not come out for the start of the third period, but when he did return, he quickly drew a penalty and the Flyers scored four seconds into the power play off a Shayne Gostisbehere missile from the point, tying the game at 2-2.
Ghost ties it up with a 💥 pic.twitter.com/qfqtd5fKso— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 23, 2019
At the time, the Flyers seized all momentum, especially after killing a 5-on-3 moments prior to the goal, as Ryan Hartman was hit with a questionable interference call and then Jakub Voracek was handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Another look at Hartman and Voracek's "penalties" 🙄 pic.twitter.com/ZS9JwpmrXH— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 23, 2019
Ryan Hartman called for questionable interference, Jakub Voracek then gets hit with unsportsmanlike conduct. Fans furious with officials today. pic.twitter.com/e5ZbzyOWU3— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) March 23, 2019
• Carter Hart was given little help from the Flyers during the first and second periods.
The goal he allowed in the first was pretty unlucky as the puck ricocheted off of Radko Gudas' skate and was batted in out of midair by Brock Nelson.
The second goal came in the second period when it felt like the Flyers were on the penalty kill with how long the Islanders sustained time in the offensive zone and fired away shot after shot. Eventually, Nick Leddy found the middle of the ice and blasted a one-timer past the 20-year-old goalie.
Hart entered 2-1-0 with a 1.32 goals-against average and .966 save percentage over his last three starts. In the two victories, he was forced to convert 40 or more saves.
He was busy again Saturday with 36 stops. He's been having to do a lot. However, Bailey's game-winner was a stoppable shot and Hart couldn't deliver late.
New York thoroughly dominated the Flyers in the middle stanza, which has been a season-long issue for the Flyers — period-by-period inconsistency. Looking like gangbusters one period and looking overmatched another period has happened far too often.
• The officials riled up the Wells Fargo Center early in the game, too, by giving Robert Hagg a double minor for high-sticking Anders Lee. The problem with the call: Hagg didn't do a thing as Lee was actually struck by his own teammate Nelson.
Brock Nelson high sticks his own teammate, so naturally Robert Hagg got four minutes for high sticking.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 23, 2019
Makes sense 🤔 pic.twitter.com/hgFH6laVdf
It oddly worked in the favor of the Flyers, who fed off the crowd and were then rewarded by the hockey gods. Who else but Hagg put the Flyers on the board 6:39 into the first period with one of the wackiest goals you'll see this season.
• There was no extracurricular activity between Voracek and Johnny Boychuk after blood boiled between the two teams in the Flyers' 5-2 win on March 9.
That, of course, was when Voracek was whistled for interference on Boychuk, who pointed at the Flyers' winger like a madman as he left the ice with an injury. During the rest of the third period, the Islanders went after Voracek, who received a highly debatable two-game suspension from the NHL Department of Player Safety.
This was an important game for both teams. Thankfully, they focused on hockey, not WrestleMania.
• The Flyers are right back at it Sunday as they visit the Capitals (12:30 p.m./NBC). They are 0-3-0 against the defending champions this season, allowing five goals in each of the three defeats.
Washington comes in having lost four of its last six games.
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