Perhaps at times the Islanders weren’t as disciplined or defensively sound as they’d like to be. It didn’t matter. They had Ilya Sorokin.
The goalie brilliantly denied several odd-man rushes in making 26 saves as the Islanders welcomed back coach Barry Trotz from COVID protocol with a 4-1 victory over the reeling Flyers on Monday night at UBS Arena to conclude a 5-1-1 homestand.
"The second period, we went south," Trotz said. "When our power play was not good tonight, they ended up having four or five chances shorthanded, which gave them a lot of momentum. Really, the story was right there: Ilya Sorokin with a couple of outstanding saves. He held in there and then we were able to capitalize on a couple of chances and that turned the game around."
The Islanders and Flyers, who will play three times in nine days, will conclude this home-and-home series on Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
The last-place Islanders (12-13-6), who have played the fewest games in the NHL, moved within 16 points of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and within three points of the sixth-place Flyers (13-18-7), who are in an 0-6-2 skid. The Flyers went 0-for-4 on the power play with only three shots.
The Islanders had just one power play, which was unsuccessful, with the Flyers outshooting them 2-1 during the second-period man advantage. Even earlier, Sorokin slid to his right to get an arm on Scott Laughton’s chance off a two-on-none rush 46 seconds into the period.
"I wait for their player or give a pass," Sorokin said. "He made a shot in the middle of the net and I was in position."
"He’s pretty reserved," Brock Nelson said. "He’s a gamer. He’s never out of a save. I think we saw that on the two-on-oh. He’s so calm but, at the same time, he’s always dialed in and he wants to make every save. When he’s on his game, he’s huge for us and he gives us a chance every night."
Nelson gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 11:44 of the second period as he wristed a shot past Martin Jones (27 saves) by using Flyers defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen as a screen.
Linemate Anthony Beauvillier made it 3-1 at 4:44 of the third period on a delayed call, with Nelson getting the secondary assist.
The identity-setting fourth line was the Islanders’ other really strong trio against the Flyers. Casey Cizikas made it 2-0 at 14:28 of the second with his first goal of the season and first in 44 games. Matt Martin completed the scoring with an empty-netter at 18:37 of the third period, with linemate Cal Clutterbuck getting the primary assist.
"I thought today was one of our most complete games as a line," Cizikas said. "It’s something that we can really build off of going on into and the rest of the year."
The Flyers’ Travis Konecny made it 2-1 at 17:12 of the second period with a cross-ice feed from the right that deflected past Sorokin off defenseman Noah Dobson’s shoulder. Sorokin then denied Joel Farabee on a breakaway at 19:00 to preserve that lead.
Trotz reunited Nelson and Beauvillier with right wing Josh Bailey and moved Kieffer Bellows onto Mathew Barzal’s line with Anders Lee.
" is a dynamic player who’s not the easiest, sometimes, guy to play with," Trotz said. "You have to get familiar. It’s probably not fair with Kieffer. Really, that’s probably the first time he’s played with Barzy for any extended time. I didn’t think they had a lot of chemistry, and that’s really not fair on Belly."