UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The Flyers were concerned with the New York Islanders’ forechecking prowess going into Sunday’s game. Turns out those fears were well-founded.
The Flyers gave up five goals in the first 30 minutes, causing coach Alain Vigneault to yank young goalie Carter Hart for the second time in three games in the 5-3 loss.
“For me, I just have to find a way to get back into my own rhythm,” said Hart, who has lost three consecutive starts in regulation after opening the year 2-0-1. “Right now, I’m just not playing [how I should]. I know I’m better than that. I just have to keep working. I’ve been feeling really good in practice, but I think right now, I just have to go out into the game and just play. Maybe [I’m] overthinking a couple things. I just have to go out and play.”
The Flyers ended their modest winning streak at three, while the Islanders extended theirs to an NHL-best seven.
Hart allowed three goals on nine shots in the first period, two more in the second before he was relieved by Brian Elliott.
Elliott stopped all 19 shots he saw, including one on a point-blank shot by Brock Nelson in the third period and another on a breakaway by Casey Cizikas moments later.
“Carter’s a young goaltender who is going to improve and figure the NHL out and what he needs to do to be successful,” Vigneault said. “A lot of times goaltenders give you outstanding performances that cover up a lot of errors in the way you played. Tonight, unfortunately, on just a very few shots -- five of them found the back of the net. That was challenging for Carter, I’m sure. And it was challenging for our group.”
The Flyers, who were outhit 34-14 on Sunday night, were playing for the second consecutive night and are in the midst of three games in four days.
“I think that was the first team this year that skated better than us,” Jake Voracek said. “Gotta give them credit. They played really fast. They were real physical in their forecheck, that caused us a lot of trouble. When we went back for the puck, their first guy always made contact with our 'D,’ that’s how they scored two of their goals in the first period.”
Vigneault cited the schedule crunch as a chance to get Sam Morin in the lineup for the first time this season. Morin, the injury-plagued former first-round pick, was paired with Shayne Gostisbehere.
Mathew Barzal had a head of steam when he went around Morin for the Isles’ fifth goal on a play that even Kimmo Timonen would have had trouble defending. The Isles got through the neutral zone too easily all night and generated chance after chance once in the Flyers’ defensive zone.
Hart should have stopped the first two goals. The third was set up when Oliver Wahlstrom knocked Travis Sanheim off the puck. Former Flyers farmhand Cole Bardreau immediately fed it in front, where tough-guy Ross Johnston beat Hart. It looked a lot like a goal you might see in the old Sega ’94 video game.
“Their forecheck was obviously good because they forced our 'D' into quite a few turnovers tonight, and those turnovers were costly,” Vigneault said.
The Flyers scored 67 seconds into the first period when Voracek notched his fourth goal in six games, after a nice feed by Sanheim. The Flyers did well to make it 3-2 after the first period when Travis Konecny scored. But that was it for the offense until Claude Giroux scored with less than three minutes to go.
By that time, the crowd at Nassau Coliseum was gleefully singing Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” in unison. as the Flyers fell to 5-4-1.
“When you get outskated like that, especially when you’re going back for a puck and they give you a lot of trouble, it doesn’t matter how good of a start you have,” said Voracek, who had an assist on Giroux’s goal. “It’s too bad we didn’t carry that lead a little bit longer, it might have looked a little different. But like I said, it was the 10th game of the season and I think that’s the first team that outskated us. I don’t think that’s bad.”