Islanders overcome Cizikas’s injury, return to conquer Flyers
With 27 games remaining in the regular season, the New York Islanders are already well into playoff mode.
“That was huge, obviously,” defenseman Ryan Pulock beamed Tuesday night after scoring the go-ahead goal with 41 seconds remaining in the Islanders’ pivotal 5-3 victory over rival Philadelphia in front of 12,228 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“Finding a way to get it done and not give [the Flyers] those points could be very big at the end of the year,” added Pulock.
After squandering an early 3-0 advantage, New York (33-16-6, 72 points) was in danger of giving back a precious point to the Flyers (31-19-7, 69 points), who entered the night just one behind the Isles for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
But Mathew Barzal, who finished with three assists, deftly skated around the Philadelphia net and drew several defenders before finding Pulock alone atop the right circle.
Pulock didn’t hesitate, pulling the trigger on a one-time blast that eluded Flyers goalie Brian Elliot for the go-ahead score.
“It’s frustrating,” admitted Elliot, who had just watched his team equalize the contest on Sean Couturier’s goal with 1:32 remaining.
“The guys battled back. I thought if we took it into overtime, we were going to win that one.”
Instead, the regulation victory moved New York five points behind first place Washington, who the Isles beat by an identical 5-3 score Monday night in D.C.
It also kept them three points ahead of Philadelphia, which holds the Eastern Conference’s second wild card spot. Columbus (70 points) is currently the first wild card in the East.
“This was a great two days for us,” Isles team captain Anders Lee noted. “A couple of character wins in high intensity games.”
Though there are nearly two months left in the regular season, the Isles know the value of taking two points from a playoff contender while boosting their chances of climbing back to the top of the Metro.
“Getting it in regulation was huge,” added Lee as New York improved to 3-0 against the Flyers this year with the final regular season showdown scheduled for March 24 in Philadelphia.
“There’s a lot of three-point games and you don’t want to see them within your division, for sure. That was a big extra win.”
Josh Bailey, Matt Martin and Jordan Eberle got the Isles off to their fast start with first-period goals and Leo Komorov beat the buzzer with an empty net tally as the Isles won for the fourth time in their last five games.
Semyon Varlamov made 35 saves for New York, which is headed out on a four-game road trip, beginning with Thursday night’s visit to Nashville.
But winning in regulation at Washington and here in Brooklyn against a pair of division rivals should fuel the Isles for their extended hiatus from the tri-state area.
“The biggest thing for me is that no matter how a game is going we’re staying to the process,” Isles Head Coach Barry Trotz said.
“Stuff is going to happen during the game and how you react off of it,” he added. “There’s no panic on our bench. We’ve seen that in the last little while. We’ve responded in the right times and tonight we did again.”
After visiting the Predators on Thursday, the Isles will be in Las Vegas on Saturday, Arizona on Monday and Colorado next Wednesday before returning to Long Island to host Detroit on Feb. 21.
No matter where they play at this point in the campaign, however, the Isles will be scoreboard-watching and grinding for every point they can get in pursuit of their second consecutive postseason berth.
Isle Have Another: Anthony Beauvillier had his six-game points streak snapped against the Flyers, but the Isles continued their recent scoring surge, putting up at least four goals for the fifth time in their last seven games. … New York might be without veteran forward Casey Cizikas for a stretch as he left Tuesday night’s game early in the opening period after a collision with Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov. Cizikas was unable to put any weight on his left leg as he was helped off the ice and Trotz did not provide any update on his condition going forward. … Varlamov had won just one of his previous six starts before getting the victory against Philadelphia.
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