Flyers coach Alain Vigneault challenged Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk on Tuesday afternoon, saying it was “their turn to put the big-boy pants on.”
The struggling veteran forwards responded.
So did Scott Laughton, who scored in overtime to give the Flyers a wild 4-3 win over the New York Islanders and put their obituary on hold Tuesday night at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.
Laughton, playing on the top line because Sean Couturier suffered an apparent knee injury after colliding with Mathew Barzal in the second period, redirected Ivan Provorov’s point drive to give the Flyers the dramatic victory with 7 minutes, 40 seconds left in overtime.
“Probably one of the bigger goals of my career; just tried to get my stick on it,” said Laughton, who was benched earlier in the series. “But we’re still down in the series and we have a lot of work to do.”
Giroux, van Riemsdyk, and defenseman Matt Niskanen scored their first goals of the postseason for the Flyers.
“It feels good to chip in offensively, but every guy up and down the lineup did a good job pulling the rope in the right direction, and that’s what we need in the next one,” van Riemsdyk said.
The Islanders lead the Eastern Conference semifinals, three games to two, and will try to end the series Thursday at 7 p.m.
When trailing postseason series 3-2 in franchise history, the Flyers are just 3-17.
Niskanen (plus-2) took a slick cross-ice feed from Travis Konecny and whipped a right-circle blast into the net to put the Flyers ahead, 3-1, with 15:28 left in regulation. Niskanen was out of position on two Islanders goals in the Flyers’ 3-2 loss in Game 4, but he had a strong bounce-back game.
But the Isles showed why they have outscored opponents 21-6 in the third period of these playoffs, including a 10-2 domination of the Flyers in that stanza. They scored two goals in a 1 minute, 33 second span to send the game into overtime.
“When the overtime started, we went back to playing the way we were in the first [period],” Giroux said.
With Carter Hart unable to make a big stop, the Islanders got goals from Brock Nelson with 4:14 left and Derick Brassard with 2:41 to go, knotting the game at 3-3 and setting the stage for the OT heroics.
Hart, brilliant during most of the postseason, regrouped. He robbed Devon Toews 1:36 into overtime after Kevin Hayes put one shot off iron and was stopped by Semyon Varlamov on a point-blank attempt.
Hart then denied Brock Nelson, who broke in alone, with 15:45 to go in OT.
“He stepped up big for us and won it,” Laughton said.
“That’s the mental strength that we all believe Carter has,” Vigneault said. “Yes, they found a way to get a couple by him, but he made some huge saves in overtime.”
After Tuesday’s morning skate, Vigneault, looking for a good omen, mentioned that Giroux and van Riemsdyk were with the Flyers when they overcame a 3-0 series deficit against Boston in 2010.
At that time, Giroux and van Riemsdyk were like several young players on this year’s team, such as Konecny, Provorov, Joel Farabee, and Phil Myers, Vigneault said.
“They definitely found a way to contribute,” Vigneault said. “Now, it’s their turn to put the big-boy pants on. ... It’s a great opportunity for those guys to step to the forefront.”
Giroux and van Riemsdyk did just that.
“Whatever the message is from the coach, I think we answered tonight,” Giroux said.
Giroux (two points, four shots) redirected Myers’ point drive through the legs of Varlamov to tie the game at 1-1 with 4:15 left in the second period.
It was just his second goal in his last 27 playoff games.
About 2 1/2 minutes later, van Riemsdyk got on the score sheet, converting Laughton’s two-on-one pass to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead with 1:42 remaining in the second.
The Islanders took the lead on Barzal’s power-play goal with 18:40 left in the second. The Isles cashed in on Derek Grant’s ill-advised tripping penalty in the neutral zone.
Josh Bailey was originally credited with the goal, but it bounced off Barzal (who was injured in the third period) and into the net. From the side of the net, Bailey threw the puck out front, with bodies scrambling in the blue paint after Tyler Pitlick pushed Barzal into Hart. The Flyers challenged for goalie interference, but it was denied, and the Isles went back on the power play for a delay-of-game penalty.
The Flyers dominated the first period, but as has been the case throughout the series, failed to capitalize on some great scoring chances. As a result, the teams left the ice in a scoreless tie after the opening 20 minutes.
“We created a few turnovers and were able to attack on them,” Giroux said after the first period. “If we keep doing that, we’ll be in a good spot.”
The Flyers had a huge advantage in shots (11-4), shot attempts (26-13), and zone time in the first period.
That seemed like ancient history after injuries to star players on each team, a late Islanders comeback, and a goal by Laughton that, the Flyers hope, will be a springboard toward reaching the conference finals.
“At the end of the day, we can’t get too high and can’t get too low,” Giroux said. “I think we’ve done a good job of that. Now we’re excited for Game 6. We still think we can play better.”
Vigneault did not have an injury update on Couturier after the game. Neither did Isles coach Barry Trotz on Barzal, who was hit in the face by Giroux’s stick on his follow-through with 4:47 left in regulation ... Both Flyers wins in this series were in overtime and were registered after they blew a late 3-1 regulation lead. ... Konecny, Giroux, and Laughton each had two points. ... Brassard: “We showed some character and it could have gone either way.” ... Nic Aube-Kubel had eight hits in 11:49, while Myers, Couturier and Laughton each had five. .. In franchise history, the Flyers are 38-38 in playoff overtimes. ... It was Laughton’s first OT goal (playoff or regular season) in his career. ... In his 18 career playoff games when the Flyers have faced elimination, Giroux has 18 points.