It was another Game 2 of another second-round playoff series three years ago when Alain Vigneault was on the wrong end of another late third-period tying goal off the stick of Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
It was 2017, Vigneault was behind the Rangers’ bench, Pageau was playing for Ottawa, and not only did the center tie the score with a hat-trick goal, but soon added a fourth to win 2:54 into overtime in a series the Senators captured in six.
The similarities, however, end there. Vigneault is now coach of the Flyers. Pageau now plays for the Islanders following his acquisition at this year’s deadline. And in this one, in real time, Pageau could not add another in OT and neither could any of his teammates.
Instead, it was Philippe Myers getting the winner for Philadelphia at 2:41 of extra time for a 4-3 victory in an El Toro of a roller-coaster match to tie this series at one-all with Game 3 set for Thursday night.
It was an amusement park ride, all right, even if there was no cotton candy for the Islanders or Semyon Varlamov, who entered the match with a shutout streak of 136:20 and had stopped 182 of the 188 shots at five-on-five he’d faced in the playoffs (.968) before allowing three goals on nine five-on-five shots before being pulled in favor of Thomas Greiss at 15:09 of the first period.
It was 3-0 against, with the Philly big boys providing the firepower. Kevin Hayes scored twice. Sean Couturier got the third goal. Claude Giroux was on his toes. The Flyers were winning battles. The Islanders looked lost.
They were not.
“We were resilient,” said Anders Lee, who, of course, blamed the team rather than the goaltender for the first-period troubles. “It was obviously not the first period we set out to have, but I think we also understood at the same time that there was plenty of game left and a lot of things can happen, so if we just stick with it, stay positive, we’ll find a way and that’s exactly what we did.”
Attention to detail was somewhat wanting. The Islanders never quite were able to get their imposing ground game going and never quite owned the area below the offensive-zone hash marks the way they did in Monday’s 4-0 triumph. Their gaps were not as tight in yielding too many chances and looks off the rush. The bottom six forwards, essential in Game 1, were unable to match that performance, Ross Johnston getting two shifts after the second period, Leo Komarov, three, and Matt Martin, four.
“We guessed, I guess, that’s probably the best term to use in some of our decisions,” coach Barry Trotz said. “And they were poor.”
But the Islanders were able to put that roller coaster into reverse, which is not an easy thing to do. They did it by persevering, yes, of course, and by cleaning up their game, yes, of course, but they did it with their talent.
The talent they allegedly do not possess.
The Lee-Mat Barzal-Jordan Eberle line was dynamic, even early. Anthony Beauvillier, who is having a breakout playoffs, elevated alongside Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey. The Islanders were quick and creative and worked themselves back into the match.
It was Lee with a power-play redirect from in front of a lovely Barzal feed to cut the lead to 3-1 at 11:45 of the second period. It was Beauvillier who made it 3-2 at 11:11 off a rush exchange with Bailey for his seventh goal in 11 games. And then it was Pageau from the slot with a laser over Carter Hart’s left shoulder to tie it after the Islanders held the zone.
It was all going for the Islanders after Pageau’s goal the way it was all going for the Senators three years ago. Well, without the home crowd. Well, without any crowd. But they had more on their side than momentum. They had a power play immediately following the tying goal because Vigneault’s challenge of an offside on the play was incorrect.
“My mistake,” he said.
But Carter Hart made no mistake when Bailey had a glorious chance to get the go-ahead (and likely, winning) goal. The rookie netminder got his right shoulder on the shot and that pretty much was it for the Islanders, who, in overtime, blundered early in icing the puck.
That set up the offensive-zone draw and sequence that began with Giroux beating Barzal at the dot and concluded with the puck in the back of Greiss’ net. The roller coaster ride had ended.
Next ride is scheduled for Thursday.