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Islanders’ late rally falls short in 6-4 loss to Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers' Radko Gudas, left, knocks down New

Philadelphia Flyers' Radko Gudas, left, knocks down New York Islanders' Mathew Barzal (13) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Philadelphia. Credit: AP / Matt Slocum

PHILADELPHIA — The Islanders showed some fight, so that’s something to take pride in. Too bad it didn’t come until they were down three goals and too late to stave off a fourth straight regulation loss.

The Isles reached the halfway mark of the season after Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Flyers and things have turned messy. After a 15-7-2 start to the season, the Isles are 5-10-2 in their last 17 games and now just two points above the Metro Division cellar.

That’s a place they don’t want to revisit. They were there for the majority of the first half of last season, a 41-game slog that ended with Doug Weight replacing Jack Capuano and the Isles amassing just 40 points.

The hard truth of this season, which has featured some amazing offense and big wins, is that these Isles are just four points better than last year’s and have now allowed 21 goals in four straight losses.

“We get feeling good about the way we play offensively and we forget that important times of games we need to make the simple play, whether it’s going to deter our offense or not,” Isles forward Andrew Ladd said. “That’s how we’re going to win games . . . We need to figure this out. That [the third period] is the standard every night. This obviously can’t continue.”

Three goals in a 4:48 span early in the second turned a 1-1 game into a 4-1 Isles deficit that was at 5-2 after the second. It was the fifth time in Thomas Greiss’ last six starts that he’s allowed at least five goals. He had traffic in front for all three of those quick ones, but Weight still wasn’t pleased with any of it through 40 minutes.

“Thomas has got to have a couple of those too, it’s five goals on 20 shots,” Weight said. “I like his fire in the third, leading us back in net and I like what we’ve been starving to see in those bad losses, I like the way we played. But it’s unfortunate that we have to go in and scream and yell, have a conniption, and sit Mat Barzal on the bench for six minutes, and [Jordan Eberle], and then we play the right way and get 19 shots to two.”

The Isles fought back with goals from John Tavares and Ryan Pulock, then a huge flurry inside of two minutes to go to nearly tie it. They fought back in the literal sense as well — Josh Bailey dropped the gloves with Sean Couturier after a big hit on Anders Lee and Eberle scrapped with Scott Laughton in the final minute.

For Couturier, who had opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the first period, the fight with Bailey capped his first career Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist and fight in the same game).

“You watch the play in the third, we were all over them. Physically, too,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “Something we need to do right off the bat.”

But an empty-netter sealed the Isles’ fate and sent them back home in the snowy mess to face the equally struggling Penguins on Friday, a battle of two teams now on the outside of the East playoff race.

“We’ve got to stop doing that to ourselves,” Pulock said. “Come out, we’re not bad, something goes wrong and it kind of spirals and we can’t stop it. We came out hard in the third, stuck up for each other and that’s important going forward.”

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