The Philadelphia Flyers picked up Vinny Lecavalier this offseason to bolster their offense. Lecavalier had not posted great numbers coming into tonight, but in this tenth game of what has been a tough season, Lecavalier came to life. He tallied his first hat trick since the 2007-08 season in a very important Metropolitan Division win tonight against the New York Islanders on Long Island. Steve Mason and Islanders' backup Kevin Poulin started in net tonight, and Mason had another very good start and helped the Flyers to their second straight win. The offense broke out tonight, tallying five goals after failing to score more than two in any game so far this season. Scott Hartnell also returned to the lineup tonight for the first time in two weeks.
Lecavalier and the Flyers got on the board early in the first period, on a power play that was created by an incredible move to the net by Sean Couturier. Couturier forced Andrew MacDonald to hook him and he made a dash for the net, creating the man advantage. Lecavalier made the Islanders pay, blasting a slap shot top shelf on Kevin Poulin, with assists dished out by Claude Giroux and former Islander Mark Streit. Exactly one minute later, Jakub Voracek made an impressive move in front of the net and snapped a wrist shot past Poulin for his first of the season, and to put the Flyers up 2-0.
About halfway through the period, the Islanders responded, with a Kyle Okposo shot from the point that Steve Mason never saw due to a screen in front. The Islanders looked to take some of the momentum back, but with less than two minutes in the period, Lecavalier struck again for the Flyers, cranking a wrist shot that beat Poulin for his second goal of the night. Michael Raffl picked up his first point at the NHL level on the play, getting credit for an assist. The Flyers entered the intermission with a commanding 3-1 lead. They scored more goals in the first period than they had in any game so far this year.
The fast pace of this game continued into the second period, but the Islanders were the only team to tally a goal. On a Philadelphia power play, the dangerous Franz Nielsen stole a pass and sped up the ice, dished a pass, then got the puck back to beat Mason to cut the Flyers lead to 3-2 for his seventh of the year. Nielsen leads the Islanders in scoring with 15 points in 10 games after tonight's effort. Other than Nielsen's short-handed goal, the rest of the period featured a bit more neutral zone play as both teams seemed to lay off the gas pedal heading into the intermission.
The final frame has been a big problem for the Flyers all season long. They have had issues closing out games, and scoring has been quite scarce. Tonight, the Flyers and Vinny Lecavalier bucked that negative trend. Just before the halfway point of the period, on a play deep in the Islanders' zone, the Flyers had Kevin Poulin out of the net and to the side trying to make a save and control the puck. The puck ended up on Lecavalier's stick with the net open, and Lecavalier picked up his third goal of the night, his fifth career hat trick, and his first hat trick since March 11, 2008, which also came against the Islanders.
The Flyers would kill off a crucial penalty against the top-ranked Islanders power play unit, and closed out the period strong. Just seconds after the Islanders pulled Poulin for the extra attacker, the Flyers made some fancy passes – including a rather unorthodox drop pass in their own zone – to get the puck to Matt Read, who deposited the puck into the open net from center ice to put the nail in the Islanders' coffin.
Now that's more like it. Tonight's game showed strong play from the Flyers from start to finish. There were very few points in the game where the Flyers were back on their heels, and when they were, Steve Mason was there to make the stops. Mason stopped 26 out of 28 shots in another very solid effort, as his strong play continues. But Mason wasn't the big story tonight. Vinny Lecavalier's offensive outburst tonight stole the show from Mason and really anyone else on the team, with a timely hat trick to help the Flyers to another much-needed win against a divisional opponent. Lecavalier played right wing on the main line tonight with Claude Giroux, and he broke out offensively. Perhaps this is one solution moving forward for Craig Berube and the team.
The Flyers showed aggressive play and seemed to be a bit more speedy than they had been in any game so far this year. They were winning loose puck battles, and did not have nearly as many turnovers or neutral zone troubles as they have had in previous games. They proved themselves in the third period tonight against an Islanders team that is certainly no longer the laughingstock of the Eastern Conference. The win is full of many positives and great signs if you're a Flyer fan – but it is just one game. They need some more consistency moving forward, but seven goals in two games and two straight wins is definitely a step in the right direction.
The Flyers move to 3-7-0 with the win, while the Islanders drop to 4-4-3. The Western Conference powerhouse Anaheim Ducks come to Philadelphia Tuesday night to face off against the Flyers.
Philadelphia – 4:30: PPG – Vinny Lecavalier (2), Assisted by Mark Streit (3) and Claude Giroux (4)
Philadelphia – 5:30: Jakub Voracek (1), Assisted by Brayden Schenn (4) and Erik Gustafsson (2)
New York – 10:16: Kyle Okposo (4), Assisted by Thomas HIckey (2) and John Tavares (9)
Philadelphia – 18:13: Vinny Lecavalier (3), Assisted by Michael Raffl (1) and Mark Streit (4)
New York – 10:30: SHG – Franz Nielsen (7), Assisted by Peter Regin (3)
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