Let the record show that John Tavares didn’t register a single shot on goal Wednesday night. Let the record also show that by the time the Islanders left the ice, he was the reason that they won.
Tavares made a Herculean showing against Sean Couturier along the end boards near the Flyers’ net. Tavares fell, but kept control of the puck and he changed direction at least three times while being pawed at by Couturier. But after all that hard work, he found Josh Bailey.
Bailey missed his first shot, but grabbed the rebound and scooped the puck by Brian Elliott 32 seconds into overtime for a 4-3 win at Barclays Center.
“That’s all him,” Bailey said of Tavares. “He’s earned that respect where you don’t really need to go in and help him out. You just kind of sit back and wait for your opening and you know he’s going to find it, just like he did.”
It was Bailey’s third point of the game; he also assisted in two previous goals in a mad, breathless contest that only further demonstrated the parity in the Metropolitan division. The Islanders remain undefeated in regulation at Barclays Center — the only NHL team to do so.
Bailey, naturally, wouldn’t sing his own praises, but Doug Weight was happy to do it for him. “I think he’s worked,” he said. “I think he learned not only last year, he took a jump, but his first seven or eight years . . . Now he’s turning into an upper echelon player in front of our eyes.”
Bailey connected with Mathew Barzal in the first period to tie the game at 1, after the Flyers scored 6:02 into the game.
Barzal drew the tripping penalty against Shayne Gostisbehere with 2:56 left in the first period and the Flyers’ penalty kill turned out to be no match for the rookie’s particular brand of razzle dazzle. He, Tavares and Anders Lee never let up the pressure and Barzal eventually cracked through less than a minute into the man advantage. With Lee screening Elliott, Barzal gathered a no-look pass from Bailey and sniped a top-shelfer from the top of the left circle.
“I think he heard us because I yelled shoot four times in that power play and he finally shot,” Weight said. “I’m living in a glass house if I’m telling people to shoot . . . He’s a visionary. He sees the ice and he has the skills to make those plays.”
Despite a number of factors working against them — playing the second game of a back to back, a five-game losing streak and poor all-around scoring — the Flyers went back up in the opening minute of the second period. A defensive miscommunication between Nick Leddy and Calvin de Haan led directly to Michael Raffl’s breakaway. Raffl, who hadn’t scored in 42 straight games, had his backhanded shot deflect off the post and then Thomas Greiss’ pad before it went in.
But the Islanders got it back, with interest: Johnny Boychuk scored on a five on three advantage off Bailey’s second assist, at 7:13, and Josh Ho-Sang converted a pass from Adam Pelech at 11:05 for the 3-2 lead.
Jakub Voracek tied it at 3 with a man-up goal with a little more than six minutes left in the period. The two teams scored four goals in a jam-packed second period, and one each on special teams.
The Islanders had ample chances in the first half of the third period, with two man-up advantages that they used to little effect. They were stagnant in their first attempt and despite more puck movement in their second power play they managed no shots on goal.
“It was pretty good with the exception of the first eight (minutes, when the team was a) little bit in snowshoes,” Weight said. “They early lead but I loved their response from them . . . We want to be elite. We believe in our team.”