Sometimes certain things in professional sports can seem almost automatic. Take the Philadelphia Flyers domination over the New York Islanders. The Flyers had been 26-2-0 in their last 28 games against the Isles, winning the last eight meetings overall, and the last 13 played in Philadelphia. Head coach Peter Laviolette figured he would give Sergei Bobrovsky the start since he had a 7-0-0 lifetime record against the Islanders, as well. So it would stand to reason that Thursday night's matchup in South Philly really wouldn't be much of a contest.
That's why they actually play the games.
The Islanders outplayed the home team from the opening faceoff in defeating the Flyers, 4-1, for their first victory in Philly since April 7, 2007. John Tavares had two assists and was the best skater on the ice all evening, while goaltender Evgeni Nabokov stopped 40 shots.
"We frustrated them, we played our game, we got a lead and you know we played great," said Tavares after the game. The third year center ran his point scoring streak to 11 games with the two assists.
New York set the tone early in outplaying the home team in the first period, outshooting the Flyers, 12-8. Bobrovsky had to come up with several good stops, particularly in smothering a Tavares breakaway attempt.
The Isles appeared to take the lead midway through the opening frame when Tavares made a strong move from behind the net and centered a pass to Matt Moulson in front. The Islanders' leading goal scorer got the puck behind Bobrovsky into the goal, but did so with his left skate in what was determined to be a distinct kicking motion. The goal was correctly disallowed after a video review from the war room in Toronto.
It didn't take the visitors to get on the scoreboard in the second. The Moulson - Tavares - Kyle Okposo line, which had been very good in the first frame, combined to score the game's first goal. Tavares carried the puck in around the net on the left wing side and wrapped a pass out in front to a wide open Moulson in the slot. The winger calmly picked the top corner over Bobrovsky's blocker side for his 22nd goal of the season at the 28 second mark, and Philadelphia found themselves trailing, 1-0.
After a high-sticking minor on Nino Niederreiter, there were great scoring chances t both ends of the ice. Michael Grabner was sent in alone on a shorthanded breakaway, but Bobrovsky closed the five hole to thwart the effort. Nabokov had to come up with a tremendous left pad stop on a Jakub Voracek rebound opportunity just moments later, preserving the 1-0 New York lead.
The next Flyers' man advantage came just minutes later, and it would yield similar chances for both clubs. After Bobrovsky stoned Tavares on a shorthanded breakaway, Nabokov matched his counterpart with a left pad save in tight on Jaromir Jagr along the goal line.
Philadelphia would get a third power play at 12:44 when Dylan Reese was sent to the sin bin for holding, and for a third straight time would yield a shorthanded breakaway. This time it was Josh Bailey, who went forehand backhand up over Bobrovsky's glove hand just 14 seconds into the Philly man advantage for his fourth goal of the year and a 2-0 Islanders' lead.
Even though the Flyers outshot New York by a 17-9 count in the middle stanza and 25-21 for the game, it was the Isles that took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission.
Kimmo Timonen took a penalty at 6:52 of the third period, and it took the Isles just 15 seconds to cash in when Mark Streit's shot from the right circle squeezed through Bobrovsky's equipment and into the net for a 3-0 lead.
The lone Flyers' goal came with 9:12 remaining in regulation, when rookies Matt Read and Sean Couturier combined to break Nabokov's shutout bid. Couturier's shot was deflected by Read past the goaltender for his 14th goal of the season, which leads all first-year NHL skaters for the season.
The goal gave the home fans a ray of hope that maybe a comeback was in the cards.
It was not meant to be as Nabokov shut the door the rest of the way, and Grabner hit the empty net with Bobrovsky pulled for an extra attacker with 0.8 seconds left to set the final score.
While Tavares was pleased with his club's efforts, Timonen had a much different view of how the game unfolded. When asked if maybe the Isles were better than the Flyers thought, the veteran defenseman thought it had more to do with his own team.
Bobrovsky was the hard luck loser, stopping three breakaways and perhaps with the Streit goal as the only one he had a chance to stop. The 23-year-old's record dropped to 10-4-1. Nabokov, meanwhile, improved to 9-11-0.
"No it was all about us," Timonen stated. "We sucked today."