Islanders beat Flyers in Game 7, will play Lightning in Eastern Conference final


TORONTO — Brock Nelson had a goal and two assists as the New York Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 in Game 7 on Saturday to win their second-round playoff series and advance to the NHL’s Eastern Conference final.

The Islanders will now meet the Tampa Bay Lightning in the final four of the league’s restart to its pandemic-delayed season. The Western Conference final is set to feature the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars after both clubs won Game 7s of their own Friday.

Scott Mayfield and Andy Greene also scored for the Islanders, who secured a spot in the conference final for the first time since 1993. Josh Bailey added two assists while Anthony Beauvillier added an empty netter.

Thomas Greiss had to make just 16 saves to record his first-career playoff shutout.

Carter Hart stopped 22 shots in defeat for the Flyers, who trailed 3-1 in the series before winning two straight to force Game 7.

Saturday marked the last action in the Toronto bubble as part of the league’s resumption of play that kicked off Aug. 1 after the schedule was suspended in March because of COVID-19. The conference and Stanley Cup finals will be played in Edmonton, where the West bracket of the 24-team tournament has been held.

The third of three Game 7s in the second round — the Golden Knights and Stars both avoided blowing 3-1 leads in their respective series thanks to decisive victories against the Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche — the Islanders opened the scoring midway through Saturday’s first period.

After the Flyers had a couple of chances at the other end, including Jakub Voracek’s redirection off the post less than a minute in, Mayfield scored his first-career playoff goal at 9:27 when the defenceman came down off the point and beat Hart over the blocker on only New York’s second shot. Mayfield’s stick broke on the sequence that led to Ivan Provorov’s winner in Philadelphia’s 5-4 double overtime victory in Game 6.

The Islanders then had a couple of great chances in front of Hart as they found their legs, and made it 2-0 at 13:12 when Derick Brassard wheeled in the offensive zone before firing a cross-ice pass to a pinching Greene, who had Hart at his mercy. The 37-year-old blue-liner’s second of the post-season came after he opened the scoring in his team’s Game 1 win.

Flyers captain Claude Giroux tipped a shot off the post early in the second, but New York carried the majority of play as the period wore on. Hart stopped Nelson on a partial break and Nick Leddy in quick succession before Beauvillier rattled iron with another shot.

But 22-year-old goaltender, who made 49 saves in Game 6, could do nothing on New York’s third after Provorov lost an edge in the offensive zone. The Islanders broke the other way on a 2-on-1, with Bailey feeding Nelson at the last possible moment to bury his seventh at 11:26 and put the game out of reach.

Pressed into action after the shaky Semyon Varlamov allowed nine combined goals in Games 5 and 6, Greiss didn’t have a lot to do, but denied Kevin Hayes on a break later in the period.

Sean Couturier returned to the Philadelphia lineup after missing Game 6 with an undisclosed injury, while Oskar Lindblom dressed for the second consecutive contest. The 24-year-old was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer back in December, but completed radiation treatments in early July.

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz and Flyers counterpart Alain Vigneault battled in a Game 7 for the second time in their careers. Back in 2015, Vigneault’s New York Rangers came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Trotz’s Washington Capitals to reach the conference final.

Philadelphia got a power play midway through the third desperately looking for a spark with its season on the line, but Greiss, who made 36 saves in New York’s Game 4 victory before watching the next two, was there to shut the door.

The Flyers had another surge, but Beauvillier scored his eighth into an empty net with 6:18 left in regulation as the Islanders secured their first conference final berth in 27 years.