Flyers

Islanders 4, Flyers 2: Emotional loss the latest of crushing defeats

Islanders 4, Flyers 2: Emotional loss the latest of crushing defeats

BOX SCORE

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.

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.

• 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.

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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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Flames look to avoid 2-game series deficit vs. Avalanche

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Flames look to avoid 2-game series deficit vs. Avalanche

The NHL-best Lightning were shockingly swept by the Blue Jackets in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The NHL's second-best team the Flames are in some first-round trouble, too. Calgary is facing a 2-1 series deficit against the Avalanche with Game 4 Wednesday night in Colorado.

Below is the full schedule for Day 8 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs (TOR 2-1)
Game 4, Eastern Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars (NSH 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference first round
8 p.m. ET | TV: USA | Live stream here

Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche (COL 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference first round
10 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Why Flyers did just fine with Alain Vigneault, not Joel Quenneville

Why Flyers did just fine with Alain Vigneault, not Joel Quenneville

It's uncertain how hard the Flyers went after Joel Quenneville or if the team was even in on the three-time Stanley Cup champion at all.

On the day Quenneville took the Panthers' head coaching job, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher appeared unflappable when asked about his level of disappointment with the news.

"I'm happy for Joel," Fletcher said April 8. "We're less than 48 hours since the end of our season and the process of identifying the next head coach of the Flyers will start today. We'll start the process.

"He's not available. I'm not going to speculate on names or people that may be available or were available or were available in past years. It's a big decision for the Flyers."

Backup plan or not, Fletcher didn't do too shabby with his big decision, tabbing Alain Vigneault as the Flyers' new head coach. 

Maybe there's some short-term memory with the outside perception of the hire. When you see Vigneault's name, many think of his final days with the Rangers. After four winning seasons, New York fired Vigneault last April as the team was ready for a fresh approach following a 25-point drop-off.

Well, the same happened with Quenneville. While he experienced a much longer and more fruitful run of success in Chicago, the situation eventually grew sour to the point in which new direction was wanted. Quenneville was fired 15 games into this season after his worst year with the Blackhawks in 2017-18.

Vigneault is not Quenneville. But he's no slouch, either.

The Flyers needed a coach with experience and got one.

Vigneault has led three teams to the Presidents' Trophy and two to the Stanley Cup Final. In 16 seasons as an NHL head coach, 11 have featured playoff berths, with eight of those teams advancing past the first round (see 5 takeaways).

He owns three 50-win seasons and eight 100-point seasons. The Flyers haven't won 50 or more games in a season since 1985-86 and haven't amassed 100 or more points in a season since 2011-12, when they last won a playoff series (see story).

"I think his track record speaks for itself," Fletcher said Monday. "He's had success at the junior level, had success in the minor leagues, and he's had success in the NHL. You can't have success at all those levels unless you're good at developing players and good at connecting with veteran players. He's a guy that gets his teams to play hard and gets his players to buy in."

And for Fletcher, what likely made Vigneault such an attractive candidate is the head coach's track record in Year 1 on the job. At Vigneault's previous three stops (Canadiens, Canucks, Rangers), each of his first seasons resulted in playoff bids and at least one series win. Overall, his combined record in those seasons was 131-89-26 with a .585 points percentage.

"Right now, it's about trying to continue to build our group and become as competitive as quickly as we can," Fletcher said.

Quenneville was clearly set on South Florida.

It's also clear why that didn't break the Flyers' hearts.

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