While the word frustrating won’t be thrown around much, the Philadelphia Flyers surely are feeling just that as they face a 3-1 deficit and elimination in their second-round series against the New York Islanders.
After an overtime winner salvaged a blown 3-0 lead in Game 2 to get the Flyers on the board, they lost two straight on back-to-back nights while being outscored 6-3 — their offense still finding difficulties breaking down the immovable Islanders’ defense.
A lot of work lays ahead for the Flyers if they want to overturn such a deficit, but they understand they can’t get it all back with one punch.
“We got to get one game. If you get one game, the tide starts to turn and the pressure is flipped,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said on Monday. “Right now, it’s all about Game 5 for us. If we can get that one, then we can get the ball rolling.”
“At the end of the day, right now, probably not a lot of people are ready to give us a chance but what we have to do is not focus on the big task, but focus on tomorrow,” head coach Alain Vigneault added. “This is a great opportunity for our leadership to change the narrative, to change their legacy.”
The Flyers’ attack — particularly their first line of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Couturier — have been held in check by the Islanders’ defense, further adding to the reputation that they can’t get it done in the big game.
Chances have come for all lines involved, but they’ve lacked that killer instinct in front of goal, which has played a large part as to why they’re down 3-1.
That has to change.
“I think you have to credit where credit is due. The Islanders are a good team,” Vigneault said. “They play a good game, a tough game to play against. With that being said, I don’t think we can play a lot harder than we did yesterday. I do believe we have a lot more finish around their net than what we’ve shown.”
“We just need a little more finish and I do believe we have that skill level to get that done.”
What’s added to Philadelphia’s frustration is that the Islanders have found a way to spark its sputtering offense and power play just enough to get through the Flyers’ organized defense. Defenseman Philippe Myers, though, believes it’s all correctable.
“They’ve just been capitalizing on our mistakes. We can manage the puck better, play a little tighter in the D-zone there,” Myers said. “We’re going to have to dig real deep and bring our work boots every shift there and want to be the difference-maker out there.”
Should the Flyers find a way to right the ship quickly, it’s anyone’s game, especially in a sport like hockey that is so steeped in momentum swings.
“Hockey is such a feel sport,” Niskanen said. “It’s amazing as a team or individually when you’re feeling it, you score goals when maybe you shouldn’t. You see the ice better. You play freer. The game’s easier when you’re feeling it. When you’re fighting it, it’s an uphill climb to get back into playing well.”
“The beauty of the playoffs is it can flip quick. We’re close to busting through. We have to have something go right for us in Game 5 to start flipping this series.”
All it takes is one win on Tuesday night.
“Maybe we put a little doubt in their mind,” Vigneault said. “The only way we can put a little doubt in their mind is by winning tomorrow.”