PHILADELPHIA – Even an early three-goal lead couldn’t prevent the Flyers from creating one of their nightly close-game dramas.
Philadelphia took that 3-0 edge into the third period against the New York Islanders on Saturday night, then watched it all disappear.
The Flyers and goalie Brian Elliott were cruising along until Anthony Beauvillier scored at 7:46, followed by a goal from Mathew Barzal at 13:34 (on a power play after Flyers were called for too many men).
Then Beauvillier scored again with 2:04 to play to tie the score at 3-3.
The game went to a shootout, which the Islanders won on goals by Beauvillier and Barzal, for a 4-3 victory at the Wells Fargo Center.
This was the sixth straight Flyers’ game decided by one goal.
The Flyers got goals from Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov in the first period and another from Oskar Lindblom in the second to build what they thought was a comfortable lead against the New Yorkers.
But maybe that lead was a little too comfortable.
“Obviously we had some bad turnovers, myself included,’’ Joel Farabee said of the horrible third period. “We have to be able to come out with a win there. Three goals in the third period is a big thing to give up.
“I don’t think it was our worst period ever but at the end of the day, everybody has to bear down. Just limit the mistakes.’’
The Flyers were coming off a road game against Ottawa on Friday night and the words “possible fatigue’’ came up in several conversations.
“It’s a tired bunch of guys after a game last night and getting in late,’’ Elliott said. “I think it caught up with us with a few decisions here and there. I think it kind of all added up, we had to weather the storm there. . .we got a point out of it but it’s definitely frustrating.’’
Keep in mind, the Islanders have now recorded at least a point in 14 straight games (13-0-1) so they know how to finish.
One might think a 3-0 lead could put a team in danger of a little false security.
Couturier shot down that notion.
“I don’t think we sat back,’’ he said. “We got caught with some bad (line) changes, they capitalized, on the first one and then the too many men. They got right back in it, they gained momentum. We couldn’t get it back. It’s tough. We gave up two points to them, divisional game, we can’t afford that.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault said his team was in good shape until the bad line changes.
“We were ready to play, competed hard,’’ he said. “Just came up a little short.’’
Elliott took the blame for several bad decisions with the puck but Vigneault said there was much more to it than that for the ugly ending.
“At the end of the day, it is a challenging schedule,’’ the coach said. “The schedule is what it is. You have to play through it.’’
Couturier connected just 1:38 into the game off a Lindblom feed.
“We got a big goal early but they came out strong and were all over us,’’ Couturier said. “But as the period went on we won some more battles, we were strong on pucks and we created some penalties.”
One of those penalties, to New York’s Jordan Eberle, resulted in the Provorov goal.
Provorov, who was criticized by his coach for a sub-par effort in the 2-1 loss to Ottawa on Friday night, cranked a slap shot from the blue line with 23.1 seconds left in the period. Goaltender Thomas Greiss was screened on the play and never had a chance.
After the game, Provorov echoed what some of his teammates said.
“We didn’t play the way we need to play,’’ said Provorov. “We sat back, making mistakes, turning the puck over in the neutral zone, not getting the puck out of our zone when we needed to.’’
Provorov wasn’t buying the fatigue excuse.
“I don’t think so,’’ he said. “I think it’s execution. Being able to stay focused and knowing what the score is. Playing the right way.’’
Lindblom launched a low rocket from the left circle at 12:20 of the middle stanza which beat Greiss far side for his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
The Swede never thought the Flyers would cough up that big a lead.
“We have to find a way to win that game,’’ he said. As for the too many men penalty, he added: “We’re old enough to recognize when we have to be on the ice.’’
Vigneault shuffled his lines for this game, putting Travis Konecny and Michael Raffl with Claude Giroux and inserting Farabee with Couturier and Lindblom. Kevin Hayes centered James van Riemsdyk and Jake Voracek on the third line.
Before the game, Vigneault noted he had a couple players that might sit out. So Robert Hagg replaced defenseman Philippe Myers and Chris Stewart was in for Carsen Twarynski. He said the moves were performance-based. . .It was Military Appreciation Night at the Wells Fargo Center and a number of servicemen and servicewomen were recognized during timeouts and intermissions.