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Lightning will have to wait on Eastern Conference final opponent

Facing elimination, the Flyers squander a late two-goal lead before winning in overtime.
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen (15) celebrates his goal with teammates Kevin Hayes (13), Travis Konecny (11), and Joel Farabee (49) during the third period.
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen (15) celebrates his goal with teammates Kevin Hayes (13), Travis Konecny (11), and Joel Farabee (49) during the third period. [ FRANK GUNN | AP ]
Published Sep. 1, 2020
Updated Sep. 2, 2020

History favored the Islanders when it came to elimination games such as Tuesday’s against the Flyers, who trailed 3-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

New York owned a 32-19 record in series-clinching games entering Game 5, while Philadelphia was 33-37 when facing elimination.

But the script flipped as the Flyers won 4-3 in overtime, extending the series to a sixth game. Philadelphia squandered a two-goal lead in the final 4:14 of regulation before Scott Laughton bailed it out with the game-winner with just under eight minutes remaining in overtime.

Here’s how the teams have looked so far in the postseason:

Islanders continue to lead the series

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz eliminated his former team in the opening round, which led to the firing of then-Capitals coach Todd Reirden.

New York had taken control of its conference semifinal series with the help of forward Josh Bailey, who leads the Islanders in assists (11) and points (14) during the postseason and goaltenders Semyon Varlamov, who stopped 27 shots in Tuesday’s loss, and Thomas Greiss, who stopped 36 shots in Sunday’s 3-2 win — his first start since March.

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New York has outscored its opponents 21-6 in the third period, a big factor in its 10-4 record through three series. On Tuesday, the Islanders outscored the Flyers 2-1 in the period.

This isn’t the first time Trotz has gone head-to-head against Flyers coach Alain Vigneault. In 2015, Trotz’s Capitals lost a conference semifinal series to Vigneault’s Rangers, who rallied from a 3-1 series deficit.

On Tuesday night, the Islanders played like they had lost their groove until late in the third period.

After a quiet opening frame, Bailey struck on the power play, giving the Islanders an early lead. But the Flyers answered back with three straight goals (two in the second period and one in the third).

With 4:47 remaining in regulation, New York’s Mathew Barzal took a stick under his right eye and left the ice for treatment. He did not return for overtime.

Soon afterward, Brock Nelson brought the Islanders within a goal with less than four minutes to play. A minute and a half later, Derick Brassard scored to tie the game at 3-3 and send it to overtime.

Flyers still need to push

Lightning fans will remember that the Flyers finished first in the round robin, going undefeated against Tampa Bay, Washington (eliminated in the first round by the Islanders) and Boston (eliminated Monday by the Lightning).

Philadelphia went on to beat Montreal in a competitive six-game, opening-round series. But the hottest team in hockey seems to have simmered against New York.

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The Flyers’ top line has struggled to find the net, with the trio of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek combining for only seven goals and 16 assists.

The third period has been Philadelphia’s nemesis, as the Islanders have outscored the Flyers 8-2 in the final frame through the first five games. In all three losses, Vigneault’s squad had been tied or down a goal coming out of the second period.

Tuesday night, the Flyers looked the best they had all series long. The second period was costly, however, as Sean Couturier collided with Barzal and did not return.

Laughton, who assisted on James van Riemsdyk’s second-period goal, sealed it for the Flyers in overtime. He became the sixth Philadelphia player to score a winning goal in overtime with his team facing elimination.

The Flyers’ top line had a collective three points in the game. Giroux picked up his first goal of the postseason along with an assist on Laughton’s goal, and Couturier assisted on Giroux’s second-period score. In all, 10 different players made it onto the scoresheet for Philadelphia.

Contact Mari Faiello at Follow @faiello_mari.