Islanders fall to Flyers, drop to eighth in East
PHILADELPHIA - This was a test for the young, playoff-bound Islanders: To keep up the energy and focus that got them to the playoffs in the game after clinching.
They were not quite up to the task, losing 2-1 to the lottery-bound Flyers Thursday night.
And just after their game ended, the Isles got a one-two punch of bad news elsewhere in the Eastern Conference: The Rangers and Senators both won in overtime, dropping the Isles all the way to eighth place.
Now, even with a win Friday night in the season finale in Buffalo, the Isles no longer control their own seeding destiny. If Ottawa gets two points in its final two games and the Rangers beat the Devils tomorrow, the Isles will face the Penguins in the opening round of the playoffs.
"We haven't played a full 60 minutes in almost a week now," Travis Hamonic said after the Isles lost in regulation for only the second time in the last 16 games (11-2-3), on a slap shot by Flyers rookie defenseman Oliver Lauridsen with 6:31 to go. "We have to be better. We didn't deserve to win this one tonight."
That was thanks to a sluggish first period in front of Kevin Poulin, who was making his first start since April 2. Poulin was sharp, making 28 saves, but the Isles got out of the gate slowly and fell behind on Danny Briere's power-play goal after Matt Carkner failed to clear the zone.
Carkner helped get the game tied 1:37 into the second, executing a neat give-and-go with John Tavares that Tavares finished off with a redirection past Ilya Bryzgalov for his 28th goal of the year.
The Isles carried the play for the second and much of the third, but they put only 22 shots on Bryzgalov. With Poulin pulled in the final 1:43, the Isles pressed hard around the Flyers net but could not produce the equalizer.
"The slow start kind of killed us," Carkner said. "If you jump on a team like that early, keep it simple and don't let them open it up like they want to, they might want to shut her down. We took it to them in the second and third, but you can't give away a period like that."
Jack Capuano didn't want to hear or talk about slow starts or a sluggish week of hockey -- the Isles are 1-1-1 in their last three. He's only focused on the good things his team is doing on the way to its first playoff berth since 2007.
"I'm not going to let that stuff creep in," Capuano said. "We had a bad first period. I thought Kevin was excellent. We've just got to get back at it. You're not going to get any of those negative answers out of me."
Facing the Penguins and their array of talent, likely to include Sidney Crosby -- the Pens captain will resume practicing with his teammates on Friday, nearly a month after taking a deflected shot to the mouth against the Isles that broke Crosby's jaw -- is not the preferred playoff matchup for anyone.
The Islanders had their fate in their own hands. Now, even scoreboard-watching will be irrelevant if they can't play a stronger game in Buffalo Friday night.
"It's exactly what we didn't want to do," Hamonic said of checking scores. "We've got one more game until the playoffs and we need to do a good job of stopping this."