The Flyers' 2010-2011 regular season ended on a positive note, with the team beating the Islanders by a 7-4 count on home ice, then celebrating their first Atlantic Division crown since 2004. Although the Islanders aren't a playoff-caliber opponent and the Flyers allowed them to come back in a wild game they had command of early, they didn't let the W slip away, finally shaking a season-long losing streak. Up next, a first-round meeting with the Buffalo Sabres, opening on Thursday night in Philadelphia.
Full highlights and video of the game's final minute and celebration below.
The action in the first period was worth the price of admission, although the Flyers twice let the Islanders come back to tie the game before the intermission. Kimmo Timonen opened the scoring just 16 seconds into the game after a botched puck handling by Rick DiPietro was stolen by Kris Versteeg and found its way to an open Timonen. Before the first full minute had ticked off the clock, Scott Hartnell made it a 2-0 game. Hartnell deftly corralled a long outlet pass by Ville Leino and buried it past DiPietro, and things were looking damn good for the Flyers.
But the Islanders didn't wilt, scoring twice to tie it up, then again after the Flyers had taken a 3-2 lead. Danny Briere stayed hot, burying a gorgeous, contested backhand over DiPietro's shoulder on the man advantage, but the Isles evened it up with a power play goal of their own moments later. It was an intense and entertaining period, with goals scored in rapid succession changing the complexion of the game several times.
Sergei Bobrovsky was relieved by Brian Boucher after losing track of the puck to allow a soft third goal. Bob wasn't terrible, with a turnover-induced breakaway and a powerplay leading to the Isles' first two goals, but Peter Laviolette did some damage control and got his playoff starter off the ice.
The second period started ominously, with the Islanders taking the lead less than a minute in. To their credit though, the Flyers buckled down and took control after that. Boucher led the way in net, and the defense steadied in their own zone and continued contributing in the offensive end. Andrej Meszaros joined Timonen in adding to the offense, netting a pair of goals and two assists for his first career four-point night. Meszaros tied the game at 4, was credited with an assist on Hartnell's eventual game-winner, and added another goal during a third period power play. I'd say he's deserving of the Barry Ashbee Trophy he was given earlier in the night as the team's best defenseman on the season.
BOB AND BOOSH
It was encouraging to see Boucher able to come in and clamp the game shut, allowing just one goal in the remaining 40 minutes (which came on the power play to boot). Although Bobrovsky has played well down the stretch and the team has confidence in him as the playoff starter, there may very well come a time when they need Boucher to relieve him in a game as he did on Saturday night, or for a start or even a series. The ability to lean on a veteran goaltender in a high-stakes situation can't be undervalued, as we learned with last year's goalie injuries.
Tip of the cap to the Isles, who gave the Flyers a great challenge in the season's final game. They had nothing but pride and 2011-2012 to play for, and they fought hard, pissing off the Flyers and their fans as a division foe should. Zenon Konopka, given the team's "Good Guy" award, topped the 300 penalty-minute mark when he was given a 10-minute misconduct in the third period. The Good Guy had to be guided down the tunnel by an Isles staffer to end an exchange with a fan, who wasn't seen on camera to have done anything other than take his picture at a sensitive moment.
The Flyers won the season series by a 6-0 count, marking the second time they've swept the Islanders in the past three seasons.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
If you missed it, here's video of the game's final minute, followed by the post-game celebration of the team's 16th division title, tied for the most in the NHL since expansion.
Thanks to Mr. Flyer Guy for sharing that.
We'll have much more on the upcoming playoff matchup with the Sabres throughout the week. We're pretty thankful the Flyers gave us something positive to go into the Daze Between with, a reminder of the offense they can put up.