UNIONDALE, N.Y. — A rugged stretch of the Flyers' schedule began Monday night with what will most likely be the team's penultimate visit to the old Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The first of 15 road games in a 20-game span presented a difficult test in a division opponent we've grown accustomed to seeing toward the bottom of the standings. This season has been different from recent years for the Islanders, in the midst of their best start since the 1987-88 campaign.

And when John Tavares went top shelf with an impressive backhander past Steve Mason, the Flyers became the latest team to fall to the resurgent club from New York. The 1-0 result came in a shootout after a stellar 46-save shutout from Mason.

For the Flyers (8-9-3), the loss was their fifth in their last six games. They are back in action tomorrow night at Detroit.

"I'm disappointed we didn't play better," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "We don't have enough guys that compete hard enough, that show enough urgency throughout the game."

Though this game needed a shootout before it was decided, the Islanders handily outplayed the Flyers, finishing with a 46-21 edge in shots, 19-5 combined in the third period and overtime. It was close only because of Mason, who set a season high in saves in one of his best performances in orange and black.

The Flyers, who are 2-6-1 in road games this season, fell to 0-3 in shootouts. Mason stoned Kyle Okposo but Frans Nielsen got one by on a glove-side wrist shot. Before Tavares' clinched it, Jaroslav Halak thwarted attempts by Scott Laughton and Claude Giroux.

"It's frustrating, but at the same time ... it has to be frustrating for the players when you don't perform well and you let in crap goals [in other games]," Mason said. "It's just frustrating not being able to get the extra point."

The Islanders (15-6-0) have won nine of their last 10 games, their 30 points tying them for the Metropolitan Division lead with the Penguins (14-4-2). Before beating Philadelphia, New York dispatched Pittsburgh in a home-and-home series on Friday and Saturday.

Halak has won his last seven starts for the Islanders, who are set to move to Brooklyn next season. In addition to shots, New York also held a considerable edge in hits, 30-11.

Giroux said this is the best Islanders team he has faced.

"I think Mase did a good job of keeping us in the game tonight," Giroux said. "They're a good team. We knew that coming in."

For the second consecutive game, with their once-depleted defensive corps now healthy, the Flyers played seven defensemen, alternating the third forward to play on the fourth line with Zac Rinaldo and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Among the defensemen, Braydon Coburn logged the most ice time (21:14) followed by Mark Streit (20:39) and Andrew MacDonald (20:11).

"It's a little bit different. You just try to be ready and try to give it your best when your name is called," Michael Del Zotto said. "It's a little bit different of a rotation. That's what we're going with now and we need to find ways to win."

After visiting Detroit Wednesday, the Flyers return home for a Black Friday matinee against the Rangers, the first in a home-and-home that culminates Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

"The thing that disappoints me is the urgency of some of our players and the competitiveness of them," Berube said. "In this league if you're not competitive and you don't want to really get in there and play, you're going to be on the outside all night."

Slap shots

Left wing Michael Raffl, out since Nov. 4 with a right-foot injury, appears ahead of schedule in his recovery, as he is supposed to skate today with the team in Detroit. General manager Ron Hextall did not rule out Raffl returning this weekend against the Rangers ... Monday night was Andrew MacDonald's first game back on Long Island since the Islanders traded him to the Flyers in March. MacDonald played parts of six seasons with New York ... Right wing Jason Akeson and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo were healthy scratches last night. Center Chris VandeVelde remains out with a lower-body injury.