Rookie Matt Read scored two goals and added an assist, Andrej Meszaros scored a goal and added two assists, and Claude Giroux recorded three helpers as the Philadelphia Flyers returned home from a West Coast trip to defeat the New York Islanders, 6-3 Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
On a night they could have finished in any position from fifth to seventh in the Eastern Conference standings, the victory helped the Flyers jump over the idle Ottawa Senators into fifth place.
It was yet another slow start for Philadelphia, as they yielded the first goal in a game for the ninth consecutive time when Josh Bailey was left all alone in front of Ilya Bryzgalov, and knocked home his own rebound at just 1:35 for a 1-0 New York lead. It was Bailey's eighth goal of the season, and marked the first-ever NHL point for 21-year-old Casey Cizikas, who drew an assist on the goal while playing in just his fourth career game.
Head coach Peter Laviolette took a timeout after the Islanders threatened to extend the lead, and as it has so many times before, the slowdown tactic to get his club's head back in the game worked pretty well.
"I think he probably leads the league as a coach in the NHL with timeouts in the first 3 minutes of a game," pointed out winger Scott Hartnell. "Our starts have been absolutely horrible. It seems like we're giving too much early. It takes us 10 minutes to get into the game. His point was pretty clear. If you're not playing, you're not going to play. You don't want to get sat first period five minutes into the game because you won't get back out there. The message was clear."
Hartnell then offered what may work better than having to take a timeout after a bad beginning. "The message was received, and he maybe has got to say that in the pregame meeting before the game."
Laviolette said Bryzgalov's play has been much better in recent games, and kept his club in the game during their flat play in the first few minutes.
"He looked good," the coach said of his netminder. "He was sharp early too, cause there was a couple of real good chances before the timeout, and he's looked sharp."
The Flyers were able to respond midway through the first period. Read was able to deflect a Meszaros blast from the blue line to score his 17th goal of the season, and in the process break out of a 12-game goalless drought.
When asked if it was like a weight off his shoulders, it was clear Read was relieved.
"Yeah, it was kind of getting to me the last three or four games, frustrated," he said. "Working too hard, I guess, and gripping the stick too tight when you actually get the puck."
Read would return the favor for Meszaros when he fed the defenseman with Philly on a late-period power play. Meszaros' shot hit the post with such force, it banked off Evgeni Nabokov and trickled over the goal line for Meszaros' seventh of the year and a 2-1 Flyers' lead with 50 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
Bailey and the Isles would tie the game in the initial moments of the middle stanza, as a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play would even the score. Defenseman Mark Streit started the sequence as he held the puck at the left circle, and let Philadelphia Nicklas Grossman slide past him as he attempted to block a passing lane. Streit sent the puck over to Frans Neilsen in the slot, who then calmly shoveled a pass to a wide open Bailey to the left of Bryzgalov for his second goal of the night and ninth of the season to tie the contest at 2-2 only 50 seconds into the second period.
Midway through the second, Jaromir Jagr carried the puck along the right wing wall, skated around the net, then sent a long-range backhander that somehow found its way through Nabokov. Jagr's 17th goal of the season helped Philly regain the lead at 3-2 at the 8:58 mark.
Timonen was quite moved by the fan reaction when the milestone was announced in the arena.
"I really appreciated it, obviously," Timonen said of the ovation. "It's been 14 years. If you go back to 1993 when I got drafted, I was a small guy and to be honest, not many people thought I could do it. You know in 1998 I got to play in Nashville. I had great years there, and I've had a pretty good five years here. It's actually a pretty nice feeling."
It wouldn't take long for the home team to add to their advantage.
Just 39 seconds after Jagr's marker, Wayne Simmonds skated the puck into the New York zone on the left wing side, pulled up along the half wall and hit Read with a perfect pass in the slot. Read's one-touch redirection beat Nabokov for his second of the night and 18th of the year for a 4-2 Flyers' lead at the second intermission.
There would be another goal scored early in a period, but this time it would be Philadelphia doing the honors. Giroux sent a pass to Hartnell in the slot, and the club's leading goal scorer beat Nabokov to the blocker side for his 31st goal of the season to make it a 5-2 margin, and established a new career-high total for the All-Star left winger.
Kyle Okposo ripped a one-timer from the right circle to the far side top corner for his 14th goal of the year, and fourth against the Flyers during the season.
Another Flyer rookie broke a long goal-scoring drought late in the contest with Nabokov pulled for an extra attacker, as Sean Couturier snapped a 17-game goalless streak when he banked a shot in off an Islanders' defender off an alley-oop pass from Giroux in the game's final minute to set the 6-3 final.
"JVR's first blocked shot gets a broken foot, so you feel bad for the guy," said Hartnell. "It's frustrating, obviously. I think he was finally getting his timing back from his concussion, and I'm sure he'll be out 4-6 weeks, I'm guessing. I'm not a doctor, but you look for a blessing in disguise and he'll be rested and ready to go come playoff time."