Andy Hilbert scored the decisive goal with less than five minutes remaining and the New York Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 on Saturday.
“That was probably Andy’s biggest goal and the biggest goal for us this year so far,” Nolan said.
With the victory, the Islanders passed Montreal and Carolina but fell back to 10th place in the Eastern Conference when the Canadiens and Hurricanes won Saturday night. New York is one point below the playoff cutoff with eight games left.
“I saw that Bergeron had a step on the defenceman and I just went to the net hard,” Hilbert explained. “I gave him a holler and he made a great backhand pass.”
Nolan praised Hilbert’s perseverance.
“He’s been struggling a little bit but he found a way,” Nolan said. “Good character guys usually stick through it.”
Richard Park, Randy Robitaille and Jason Blake also scored for the Islanders, who have won two straight after dropping six of their previous seven games.
Blake, who played in his 500th NHL game, says that he is enjoying the playoff chase.
“This isn’t a bad way to go,” Blake explained. “Obviously it tests our character as a team. We know we’re good enough. We’ve beaten every team in the league so far, so we just have to take care of ourselves and not worry about anyone else.”
Jeff Carter, Randy Jones and Ben Eager scored for the Flyers, who lost their fourth straight game and sixth in their last seven. Carter and Simon Gagne, who returned after missing six games with a left groin strain, each added two assists for the Flyers.
“We’re going to play a lot of teams that are battling for playoff spots,” Gagne said. “They played desperate hockey in the third. That is going to be dangerous for us if we’re not ready to play them early.”
Park put the Islanders ahead at 3:44 of the first period when he skated in from the left side and slammed in a rebound of a shot by Viktor Kozlov for his seventh goal and second in the last three games.
Carter pulled Philadelphia even with 42 seconds left in the period when his shot from the crease bounced off the stick of Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro. It was his 11th goal of the season.
Each team scored twice in the second period.
Jones scored his fourth goal on a backhander at 3:17 to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead. Then, on a power play, DiPietro fired the puck deep into the Flyers’ zone. Alexei Yashin redirected it onto the stick of Robitaille, who scored his 11th goal of the season on a wrist shot at 9:16, tying the score.
Eager put the Flyers ahead with a rebound 17 seconds later for his fourth goal, but Blake tied it at three when he put in his own rebound after his shot bounced back off the stick of Philadelphia’s Derian Hatcher with 1:14 left in the period.
Four players snapped long scoring droughts in the game. Jones broke a 17-game slump. Carter and Robitaille scored their first goals in 16 games, and Eager had his first in 13 contests.
“We need to have 100 per cent effort every night,” said Philadelphia’s Scottie Upshall, who returned after missing three games with an upper-body injury. “We probably could have held them (Islanders) off, but we let the game slide.”
Notes: Flyers D Joni Pitkanen played in his 200th NHL game. … New York outshot the Flyers 17-5 in the first period but failed on four power-play opportunities. …Vince Papale, of “Invincible” fame, visited New York’s dressing room after the game wearing an Islanders jersey.