The Flyers and Islanders took each other to the brink again in Game 6.
The good feelings again began before the game as it was announced that Oskar Lindblom was going to play in Game 6. A mere 9 months after being diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma Lindblom is on the ice playing in the NHL playoffs. A truly incredible feat. Michael Raffl also came back into the lineup as Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee both are unable to play due to injures sustained in Game 5. The Flyers came out inspired, and after trading chances with the Isles found the net just 10 minutes into the game. Robert Hagg picked off a pass in the neutral zone, carried the puck in, and dished to Kevin Hayes, who continued it along to Travis Konecny. TK went back to Hayes after Hagg rushed the defense and pushed them back, and Hayes found the corner just above Semyon Varlamov’s shoulder. The moment was especially poignant when you consider that Hagg is Lindblom’s best friend and found out about the diagnosis at the same time.
A minute and a half later it was James van Riemsdyk took a great cross-ice pass from Jake Voracek which sprung him. With all his momentum going forward, JVR uncorked a slapshot that beat Varlamov under the glove and over the pad. JVR has always been a streaky scorer and it seems like he’s finally heated up. Travis Sanheim also got an assist on the play by getting the puck to Voracek to start the counter rush.
Just when the Flyers seemed like they’d have a chance to run away with things, the Islanders buckled down and righted their ship. Derick Brassard scored his 2nd of the playoffs after Brock Nelson went low to high with Devon Toews, who hit Brassard with the slap pass and it redirected into the net. The Flyers would escape with the lead in the 1st period after being outshot 10-5.
In the 2nd period, the life went out of the sails of the Flyers. Matt Martin scored off an odd-man rush that hit Justin Braun’s stick and deflected in, and Flyers coach Alain Vigneault again challenged the goal, as an Islander player slid into Hart just as the shot was bouncing through. Of all the challenges AV has made, this was the most questionable, and when the call was upheld the momentum swing hit the Flyers hard. The combo of Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal, and Anders Lee again combined on a Lee powerplay goal. The Islanders pp is incredibly skilled and has been a strength while the Flyers unit has been abysmal. The game continued with the Islanders having surged to a 3-2 lead.
The Islanders continued to dominate the period and the Flyers had no answer. That is until the 4th line was able to get on the board. A forechecking effort led to a pass from Provorov to Nicolas Aube Kubel who carried around the zone as Michael Raffl settled down in front of the net. Raffl screened the shot then buried the rebound before Varlamov was able to find it. That tied things up and the Flyers seemed to have avoided any major damage after being dominated.
That didn’t last as Brassard and Barzal again victimized the Flyers for a last-minute goal. Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers got pinned in their end on a long defensive shift and Sanheim got his pocket picked by Brassard, and the puck went right to Barzal, who wired a beautiful shot above Hart’s shoulder. The Flyers would enter the 3rd period down 4-3.
The Flyers were dominated in the 3rd. The Islanders outshot them 14 to 4 in the period. The Flyers got the most important shot though. A loose puck bounded into the neutral zone and Claude Giroux got to it first and flipped the puck forward for a streaking Scott Laughton. Laughton collected the puck and raced in, faked backhand, and rocked the puck back onto his forehand and beat the goalie up high. The Flyers held onto the tie and forced the third overtime game in the series.
The overtime action was filled with wide-open hockey. The teams traded rushes back and forth as well as quality chances. The first overtime was a more even contest but could not yield a winner. They moved to a 2nd overtime and the Flyers found a way to pepper shots against the Islanders despite not dominating the possession battle. The Flyers had an 8-2 advantage in shots, and the 8th shot was the final one.
Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield broke his stick trying to shoot the puck and Kevin Hayes ragged the puck into the offensive zone. He took it behind the net then passed it out to Ivan Provorov. Raffl again set the screen and Provorov blasted away, scoring the winner in double OT. The celebration ensued and the relief was instant. The Flyers have forced a decisive Game 7 and put the pressure on the Islanders who have now surrendered a 3-1 series lead.
Game 7 is set for Saturday. The Flyers must clean up their defensive issues (were outshot 53-31, Carter Hart was fantastic) and the powerplay needs something but it feels like the Flyers might just be in the driver’s seat in this series again. We’ll await updates on Couturier and Farabee as well, but for now, the Flyers highlight of Oskar Lindblom’s Game 6 return and their double-overtime victory is the biggest moment they’ve had in years and we’ll enjoy it.