TORONTO — Jean Gabriel Pageau scored the go-ahead goal 7:18 into the third period and the New York Islanders moved within one win of advancing to the Eastern Conference finals with a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night.
Brock Nelson scored twice, both set up by Josh Bailey, and the Islanders gained a 3-1 lead of the best-of-seven second-round series with Game 5 set for Tuesday night. New York is seeking to make its first conference finals appearance since 1993, when the Islanders lost to Montreal to six games.
Backup goalie Thomas Greiss stopped 36 shots in making his first start of the playoffs in a game both teams rested their starters while playing on consecutive nights. Playing in place of Semyon Varlamov, it was Greiss’ first start since a 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina on March 7, and second appearance this post-season.
Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov scored for the East’s top-seeded Flyers, who were coming off a 3-1 loss on Saturday. Philadelphia lost consecutive games for the first time since an 0-3-1 skid from Dec. 31-Jan. 7.
Though Provorov scored with 64 seconds left and the Flyers net empty, Philadelphia managed just one more shot on net, as the Islanders controlled the puck in their own corner for much of the final 20 seconds.
Philadelphia’s Brian Elliott stopped 30 shots in place of Carter Hart. It was Elliott’s third appearance this post-season, and second start after he stopped 16 shots in a 3-1 win over Washington in a preliminary round-robin game on Aug. 6.
Defenceman Scott Mayfield jumped into the rush to set up the go-ahead goal. Accepting a pass from Devon Toews, Mayfield fed Pageau for a breakaway. Pageau drove down the middle and sneaked a shot through Elliott’s legs, with the puck having enough spin on it to dribble over the goal line.
Nelson made it 3-1 by scoring four-minutes later by completing a give-and-go with Bailey on a two-on-one break. Driving the Flyers zone up the right wing, Nelson fed Bailey, who returned the pass allowing Nelson to tap the puck in the open left side.
The Flyers’ offence has essentially dried up, with captain Claude Giroux having yet to score this post-season.
After combining for 11 goals in sweeping the top-seeded playoff-opening round-robin series, Philadelphia has managed just 18 in its past 10 outings.
Both goalies were particularly sharp in the first period, which the Flyers opened with a 5-0 edge in shots. Greiss took Scott Laughton’s shot from the left circle off the top of his mask 3:20 in, and made his best stop some four minutes later in kicking out his right pad to foil Joel Farabee’s redirection.
It was then Elliott’s turn to hold the fort in a period that ended scoreless and New York holding an 18-7 edge in shots.
With Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny off for slashing, Elliott stopped Ryan Pulock’s blast from the left circle, and then recovered to kick out his left pad to stop Anders Lee attempting to convert the rebound in front with 4:11 left. Some 20 seconds later, Elliott got across to his right to squeeze Mathew Barzal’s one-timer under his arm.
Nelson opened the scoring 6:25 into the second period, being set up by Bailey, who intercepted Philippe Myers weak clearing attempt at the left point. Bailey drove up the boards and centred to an open Nelson, who snapped a shot in the top left corner.
The Flyers tied it nine minutes later when Giroux dug out the puck in the left corner. Philadelphia worked the puck to the right point, where Justin Braun’s slap shot was deflected in by Couturier, who had position on defenceman Devon Toews.
The Flyers responded by dominating the Islanders in a second period in which they out-shot New York 17-3. The Islanders didn’t manage a shot on goal over the final 10:44 of the second.
NOTES: Flyers LW Oskar Lindblom took part in the pregame warmup before being scratched. The 24-year-old has rejoined the team and hasn’t played since Dec. 7 when he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. … Islanders have three players — Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier — with at least 10 points in one post-season for the first time since 1993. … With a win in Game 3, Varlamov (9-2) joined Billy Smith (1980 and ’81) to win at least nine of 11 decisions in one playoff. … It was Greiss’ first start since a 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina on March 7.
Game 5 is Tuesday at 7 p.m. EDT.