PHILADELPHIA — As disheartening as it was to be down by two goals after two periods, it just made the ending that much sweeter for the Islanders. It allowed them to flex their resilience and exercise their belief.
They capped a big comeback with a 5-4 overtime win over the Flyers on Friday afternoon on Nick Leddy’s goal at 2:44 of the extra period. It was the Islanders’ fifth win in the past six games and second overtime victory against the same team in three days. By any measure, it was a big occasion.
And truth be told, they really had not been all that disheartened. They truly were not alarmed after allowing four goals in the second period and falling behind 4-2. “To be honest, I thought we outplayed them in the second period. They just got some good bounces,” said Josh Ho-Sang, who made what Leddy called “a great pass” that set up the winning shot.
The point is, the Islanders keep producing their own reasons to believe in themselves. The coach said it is because of the players. Ho-Sang attributed it to “mental strength and good coaching.” Others said it was the knowledge that this is an offense-oriented league now and that they can score with the best of them. In any way, shape or form, Friday was a rewarding day for them.
“It shows our determination,” Leddy said. “We’ve got a very good team in here.”
In the estimation of Andrew Ladd, who set up Mathew Barzal in the first period when it looked as if this would be the equivalent of a pitchers’ duel and scored the tying goal with 7:49 left in run-and-shoot regulation: “Getting two points out of that game, that’s huge for us.”
Doug Weight said he did not have to scream at his players between the second and third periods. He agreed with the assessment that the Islanders had not played poorly against a desperate opponent that entered with no wins in its past six games. He said almost nothing, in fact. The only words that he recalls sharing with the team were “we’re going to win this game.”
That sure did not appear likely after Shayne Gostisbehere broke a 2-2 tie on a delayed penalty at 12:11 of the second and Sean Couturier beat Thomas Greiss only 19 seconds later. Leddy said the reaction in the Islanders’ locker room was something like this: “You just put it behind you. You can’t do anything about it. Just focus on the present.”
Present and future tenses seem better for a team that has a solid second line. Barzal, Ladd and Jordan Eberle each had a goal in this game. “If you look at the best teams, they always have that,” said Eberle, whose power-play goal at 4:12 of the third cut the deficit to one. He set up Ladd on goalie Brian Elliott’s doorstep for the equalizer.
Given where they had been after 40 minutes, the Islanders might have been pleased with one point. Instead, they got two. Again, it was John Tavares who began the deciding play, only not with a tenacious highlight-video move like the one he made Wednesday. This time he did it subtly, taking the puck outside the zone. Ho-Sang said that caused the Flyers “to reset.”
That created open ice.
“Two guys went to Johnny, one guy went to me,” Ho-Sang said, “and Leds was a happy camper.”
Weight said he does not want his team to be too exhilarated, to the point that they take comebacks for granted. “We don’t want that to creep in,” he said with a smile.