NEW YORK – Considering the Flyers are 21-0-2 when protecting a third-period lead, it wasn’t difficult for them to remember one of those two “tie-breaker’’ losses that got away.
It came last Nov. 16 when they took a 3-0 lead into the final frame against the New York Islanders, gave up three goals (two in the final 6:26) and lost in a shootout.
Those are the kinds of losses which can keep you awake at night.
So, as fate would have it, the Flyers had a chance to turn the tables on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
After giving up three goals to the Isles in the first period, the Flyers came roaring back with two of their own in the second period and made a game of it.
And then they tied it with 1:32 to play on a goal by Sean Couturier, who put back a puck off the end boards.
But the Islanders scored with 41 seconds to play on a goal by Ryan Pulock. They added an empty-net goal with seconds to play.
Although they came up short in the 5-3 loss, the Flyers at least could take satisfaction from a game effort.
That said, the Islanders are the only Metropolitan Division team the Flyers have failed to defeat this season.
After the game, the Flyers looked like they took this loss particularly hard.
“It was a heck of an effort, battling back,’’ Matt Niskanen said. “Pretty awful first period, a pretty darn good second and third periods. We just (tinkled) one down our leg at the end.’’
The frustrating part was the Flyers couldn’t salvage at least a point.
Coach Alain Vigneault indicated the Flyers could have used a blocked shot or a save on Pulock’s long shot.
James van Riemsdyk, who was standing between Pulock and the net, not only couldn’t block the shot but actually screened goaltender Brian Elliott.
“We didn’t get the job done,’’ Vigneault said. “We need either a save or a blocked shot. One or the other. I talked yesterday about the importance of blocked shots during the game. We had an opportunity to get one there. We didn’t and we lost a big point tonight.’’
After surrendering those first three goals, the Flyers came back in the second period to make it close.
Travis Konecny scored at 9:34, courtesy of an accurate pass from van Riemsdyk.
“James made an unbelievable pass across there and I just tried to find a soft area,’’ Konecny explained. “I was kind of taking my options as I was walking in but there was really nothing else other than to just throw the puck on net.”
That shot eluded Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov, as did another off the stick of Robert Hagg at 11:56. Scott Laughton started the play by getting the puck to Claude Giroux. The captain’s shot was stopped by Varlamov but Hagg cleaned up the rebound.
In the third period, Konecny had a chance to tie it with just over eight minutes to play and the Flyers on a power play. But, facing an open net, his shot hit harmlessly off a post and slid away.
After the Couturier goal and Pulock’s backbreaker, the Flyers were left to lament the outcome in the locker room.
“We didn’t say anything after the game, it speaks for itself,’’ Hagg said. “It’s 3-3 with a minute and a half left. It’s unacceptable.’’
Couturier had a look of disbelief as he discussed what went right and what went wrong.
“The first period probably cost us the game,’’ he said. “We battled hard to come back. Unfortunately, we lose a point and come out of here with no points but we have to quickly forget this one and move on.’’
The Islanders attacked Elliott in waves in a lopsided first period.
Josh Bailey scored at 7:45 on a shot for which Elliott might have been screened.
Then Matt Martin rushed two-on-one with Leo Komarov, with the duo working a tic-tac-toe play for Martin’s easy tap-in at 11:13.
Finally, Mathew Barzal skated around three defenders, including Niskanen, got a shot on Elliott and watched as Jordan Eberle cleaned up in front at 15:36.
The Flyers came into the game winless in their last three games against the Islanders (now 0-3-1). That’s only the second time since 2007-08 they have gone as many as three games without a win against the Islanders (the other time was 2014-15).
With the loss, the Flyers had a five-game (3-0-2) road point streak stopped.
It came down to that fateful shot by Pulock and it’s something the Flyers will replay in their heads for some time.
“It’s frustrating,’’ Elliott said. “The guys battled back to at least try to secure an extra point. I thought if we took it into overtime we were going to win that one.’’
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