Islanders take commanding series lead over Flyers

The Islanders are one win away from their first conference finals appearance since 1993.

Once again piecing together a lethal finish behind third-period goals from Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Brock Nelson, his second of the day, the Islanders secured a 3-2 win and a 3-1 series lead over the Flyers on Sunday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Like the Islanders, the Flyers had bounced back from every loss this postseason with a win. That ended Sunday night. Following a lackluster second period, in which they managed to score a goal on just three shots before the Flyers pulled even at 1-1, the Islanders made their own luck in the third period as they have all postseason.

“I think it’s just a group that understands that you go the distance on everything,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said on a Zoom call following the win. “You saw that when we were down three pucks the other night, we pulled it off to get it to overtime, unfortunately we didn’t get the win. But it’s just a room that understands that you have to go the distance. And that distance is the final buzzer.”

Making his first official start of the postseason, Thomas Greiss turned aside 36 of the 38 shots he faced.

Asked what it was like to be in the midst of the longest playoff run of his career with the Islanders as the longest-tenured member of the team, Josh Bailey said it would be harmful to start reflecting on their success now.

The Islanders are one win away from the Eastern Conference Final.Getty Images

That’s the kind of mentality Trotz said he’s hoping to foster on this Islanders team.

“Let’s look at the task at hand,” Trotz said. “The task at hand is we have to win one more game and that last game is the toughest. We’re going to have to go earn it. No one is going to walk in a room and give us a game. We’ve got to go earn it.

“Today we didn’t do enough to earn it but we were able to get a win and that says a lot about the group. When the game is on the line, our group found a way to get it done.”

The Islanders opened up the first with a couple of turnovers that led to early chances for the Flyers. It seemingly woke the Islanders up because they suddenly went into overdrive, combating Philadelphia’s early 7-0 advantage in attempts by finishing the period up 18-7 in shots.

Mathew Barzal was buzzing throughout the first, jump-starting a dangerous chance for Jordan Eberle in the neutral zone with a leading pass that Eberle took to the net before Brian Elliott made the stop just over five minutes in.

Eberle carried his own personal momentum over and registered the Islanders’ first quality chance of the second with a quick turnaround shot 1 ½ minutes into the middle frame, but Elliott swallowed it up to keep it scoreless. Joel Farabee responded for the Flyers with a slick shot around Ryan Pulock that reached Greiss, who gave up the rebound before quickly covering it up. Travis Sanheim then hit the post before the puck slid right under Greiss.

After the Flyers failed to clear the puck twice from their zone, Bailey found Nelson for the top-shelf snipe to lift the Islanders 1-0 at 6:52 of the second. Bailey’s assist was his 10th of the postseason, the most by an Islander since Derek King had 11 in 1992-93 playoffs.

But from there, the Flyers were all over the Islanders on all ends of the ice.

With just under five minutes left in the middle frame, Sean Couturier deflected a hard shot from the point in to knot the game 1-1. Philadelphia’s game-tying tally was the first goal the Isles allowed in either the second or third period in the past five games.

The Flyers outshot the Islanders 17-3 in the second, recording the last 12 shots.

“We need to still find a way to raise our level,” Nelson said.

Both teams exchanged quality chances to start the third, with Eberle just missing wide while crashing the net. Adam Pelech hit iron shortly after. On the rush, Scott Mayfield sent a crisp pass to a crashing Pageau, who banged home the 2-1 score at 7:18 of the third.

A two-on-one rush between Nelson and Bailey ended with Nelson recording his second goal of the night for the insurance tally at 11:12.

The Flyers pulled Elliott with two minutes left in regulation and Ivan Provorov’s long shot found the back of the net to make it a one-goal game. But the Islanders hung on after pinning the puck in the corner for the last minute.

“As the [phrase], ‘Becoming comfortable when it’s uncomfortable,’ well, today was an uncomfortable game,” Trotz said. “And we were able to find a way to win.”