Hey, nobody said the road to the Stanley Cup wouldn’t be a bit bumpy.
The Flyers find themselves trailing in a series for the first time this summer as they lost the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal Monday night to the New York Islanders, 4-0, at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.
Andy Greene and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, players acquired in deals near the trade deadline, scored the first two goals for the Islanders, who continued the dominating play they displayed in series wins over Florida and Washington.
Veteran Semyon Varlamov made 29 saves and was brilliant in a Flyers-controlled second period.
Game 2 is Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Varlamov recorded his second straight playoff shutout. He had gone 11 years between playoff shutouts before blanking the Capitals in the previous series.
The Flyers are 15-24 in playoff series when losing Game 1. They are 24-9 in series after winning an opener.
If you’re looking for optimism: The Flyers haven’t lost two straight games since Jan. 7. Since then, they are 10-0 after a defeat.
“We haven’t lost two in a row in a long time, and we don’t plan to lose the next one,” captain Claude Giroux said.
On the flip side, the Flyers can’t seem to solve the Islanders. They lost all three regular-season games against the Isles, who are facing the Flyers in the postseason for the first time since 1987.
The Islanders scored an early goal to take control.
“The first period was probably the worst period we’ve had since we’ve been in the bubble,” Giroux said.
“They were first on pucks,” Jake Voracek said of the Flyers’ disastrous opening 20 minutes.
Still, the Flyers faced just a 1-0 deficit heading into the final period.
Pageau, alone in front, converted Leo Komarov’s pass with 17:06 left in regulation to put the Isles ahead, 2-0. Pageau was acquired from Ottawa for first-, second-, and third-round draft picks.
Sean Couturier, looking for his first goal of the postseason, whipped a shot off the post with 13:37 remaining. It was that kind of night for the Flyers, whose big guns continued to come close but continued to search for their first goals of the postseason.
Anders Lee, the Islanders captain, secured the win by finishing off an artistic three-on-two break with 11:10 to play. Devon Toews added an empty-net goal with 7:39 remaining.
New York was more physical than the Flyers and got 10 hits from Ross Johnston.
In the opening period the Islanders outshot the Flyers, 15-4, and built a 1-0 lead.
It would have been at least 3-0 if Carter Hart wasn’t razor sharp.
The Isles pinned the Flyers in their own zone with their stellar forechecking, and they took the lead after Scott Laughton failed to clear the puck out of the zone. With 13:54 to go in the first, Greene, a 37-year-old defenseman acquired from New Jersey at the trade deadline for David Quenneville and a 2021 second-round pick, scored on a point drive that may have deflected off Flyers defensman Phil Myers (four hits, three blocked shots). Hart, who appeared screened, never had a chance.
It was Greene’s first playoff goal since 2010, also against the Flyers.
About 1½ minutes after Greene’s goal, Flyers center Kevin Hayes went in on a breakaway, but he lost control of the puck as he was about to put a backhander on net against Varlamov.
At one point, the Isles got 10 straight shots, including a point-blank attempt that Brock Nelson whipped at Hart, who made a sprawling glove save – one of his best of the postseason.
The Flyers forwards managed just two first-period shots. Two. Giroux began the opening period on the third line but was shifted to the top line (switching with Michael Raffl) later in the session.
“We got some good looks that didn’t reach the net,” Hayes said after the first period. “We have to regroup.”
They did, firing the first eight shots of the second period after killing a penalty.
Varlamov stopped the snake-bitten Giroux (one goal in his last 23 playoff games) on a rebound with 14:50 to go in the second. A minute later, he turned aside Hayes from close range.
The 32-year-old goalie made 15 second-period saves and sent the Flyers into the third facing a 1-0 deficit.
“He’s been huge for us all year and in the playoffs,” Nelson said.
The Flyers have scored a total of just 11 goals in their seven playoff games (1.6 per game). Three of their big scorers -- Couturier, Travis Konecny (team-high four shots), and Giroux -- are goal-less in 10 postseason games this summer.
“Our top players have to play better, and obviously I’m one of them,” Giroux said.
“The willingness is there, the execution was just a little off,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “They had some good looks.”