By Jerry Wein
The Flyers finally solved their offensive issues, at least for one game.
And they needed every bit of offense to even their series with the New York Islanders at a win apiece after squandering a 3-0 lead Wednesday but prevailing 4-3 in overtime.
Luckily for the Isles, they don’t have to wait long for their shot at revenge, jumping back into action tonight for Game 3 in Toronto.
Date/Time: Tonight, 7 p.m. ET
Arena: Scotiabank Arena
TV Coverage: NBCSN
Opening Odds: Islanders -116 | O/U 5.5
This one opened with the Islanders as small favorites, but these teams now carry identical -110 odds to win at the majority of sportsbooks. The total kicked off at 5.5 but has since slipped to 5.
The Flyers could have done without having to play extra hockey after allowing a three-goal first-period advantage to disappear, but getting back in the win column after a dispiriting 4-0 loss in the series opener was pivotal. We can’t say it was unexpected, with the Flyers now 11-0-0 following a loss since January 7.
One of the more encouraging signs for the Orange and Black was having Sean Couturier break out of a lengthy scoring slump. Couturier had 22 goals and 59 points in 69 regular-season games but had been held to just five points in 10 playoff contests before recording a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s win. He also finished with four shots on goal, his most in the playoffs.
Moral victories are worth nothing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, so you could hardly blame the Islanders for coming into Game 3 with vengeance on their minds after a spirited late rally fell just short. And though New York lost 11 of 13 games heading into the COVID-19 hiatus, the team rebounded from its two previous postseason defeats to Florida and Washington with a pair of four-goal wins.
The big question for the Isles in Game 3: Who will tend goal? New York might have decided to split duties for Wednesday and Thursday’s back-to-backs, but Semyon Varlamov was pulled after allowing three first-period goals. Thomas Greiss made his first appearance of the postseason in relief and stopped 20 shots in defeat, throwing the Game 3 goalie plan completely into turmoil.
Bounce-backs are the specialty of both teams these days, so we’re expecting the Islanders to tighten up on defense and prevent a repeat what happened in the first period of Wednesday’s setback.
The Flyers are 8-0 in the playoffs when scoring first.
Sean Couturier has 3 goals in 5 games vs the Islanders this season.
The OVER is 5-1 in the last 6 meetings between the teams.