A thrilling series will see a pivotal sixth game Thursday night in Toronto. The Philadelphia Flyers managed to stay alive in Game 5 and will look to send the series to a seventh game, while the New York Islanders will once again look to secure a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Here is a preview for Thursday’s matchup between the Flyers and Islanders, along with a series recap and free pick. New York is the favorite to pull out the win, listed at -120, according to the latest odds.
The Islanders opened up the series with something to prove as the underdog. Semyon Varlamov recorded 29 saves and his second consecutive shutout, leading New York to a 4-0 win in Game 1.
The Islanders broke the game open with a three-goal third period, including the fifth of the postseason from center Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
In Game 2, it was Philadelphia that got off to a hot start but needed overtime to win 4-3 and tie the series. The Flyers scored three times in the opening frame, two of them courtesy of center Kevin Hayes.
But New York would mount a comeback starting with a power-play score from left wing Anders Lee and then the game-tying score from Pageau with just over two minutes left in regulation. But Philadelphia shook off the blown lead quickly, as defenseman Philippe Myers buried the game-winner early on in overtime.
The Flyers once again led after the first period in Game 3, but the Islanders got the final say. New York once again rallied in the final two periods, defeating Philadelphia 3-1 to go back up in the series.
Right wing Matt Martin and left wing Leo Komarov scored their first goals of the series, while Lee delivered on the power play once again to seal the deal.
The following day, with New York’s Thomas Greiss and Philadelphia’s Brian Elliot in net, the Islanders used another strong third period to win 3-2 and put themselves on the brink of advancing. After a quiet first, each team got on the board in the second period thanks to centers Brock Nelson (Islanders) and Sean Couturier (Flyers).
But New York once again found a way to win the third period, with Pagaeu scoring his seventh of the postseason and Nelson delivering his second of the game for the eventual game-winner.
Finally, in Game 5, facing elimination, Philadelphia clawed its way to a 4-3 overtime win to stay alive in the series. After going down by a goal, Philly scored three unanswered from left wing Claude Giroux, left wing James van Riemsdyk, and defenseman Matt Niskanen.
But New York wouldn’t go down quietly, with Nelson bringing the Islanders to within one and center Derick Brassard tying things up with under three minutes left in regulation. But after a back-and-forth overtime, center Scott Laughton saved Philadelphia’s season with his first goal since the round-robin games.
Keys to Victory
Philadelphia will win if: It gets something going on the power play. During the regular season, Philadelphia carried a 14.6 percent success rate on the power play, good for ninth in the NHL. But their power play has been MIA this series, failing to register a goal in all seven of their opportunities with the extra attacker.
Meanwhile, New York has found some success when the Flyers go to the box, scoring three goals in 11 chances. As a team that has been inferior during five-on-five play this series, the Flyers will need to capitalize on any mistakes New York makes Thursday night.
New York will win if: It takes the lead early. In the two games that Philadelphia has won this series, it had a lead in the third period, lost it, but managed to win in overtime. But in the other three contests, the Islanders were in control of the game heading into the third period.
The Flyers may have shown some resilience in overtime, but they haven’t shown an ability to overcome a multi-goal deficit. If the Islanders start hot and put Philadelphia down early on, that might be enough.
This has been a fun series to watch, with all but Game 1 being decided by two goals or less. But once again, I like the team that is up in the series to close it out.
The Islanders have been the better team, and the Flyers offense isn’t playing at the level they need to be to upend their defensively-strong opponents. Despite the blown chance to finish the series in Game 5, I like the Islanders Thursday night.
Pick: Islanders -120