UNIONDALE, N.Y. – The Philadelphia Flyers have been winning with regularity since their Winter Classic loss to the New York Rangers. Another chance to play New York’s other team provided an even bigger lift.
Backup goalie Sergei Bobrovsky continued his superlative play against the Islanders, stopping 33 shots, and the Flyers won for the 26th time in 28 games against Long Island’s team, 3-2 on Thursday night.
The Flyers’ fourth win in five games since the outdoor game at Citizens Bank Park on Jan. 2 moved Philadelphia within two points of the Atlantic Division-leading Rangers, who lost 3-0 to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.
Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier scored for the Flyers. Kyle Okposo and John Tavares had goals for the Islanders.
“I don’t know what it is, we just have their number,” Hartnell said. “It’s hard to explain that kind of dominance. We worked hard and played a strong game.”
The Flyers (26-12-4) have won 12 of 13 on Long Island. New York (15-20-6) had won three straight at home, including a 5-1 victory over Detroit on Tuesday.
Bobrovsky stopped Michael Grabner on a penalty shot 2:49 in and made a spectacular glove save on the Islanders right wing late in the second.
“He made big saves at the right moments,” Flyers forward Max Talbot said. “He won the game for us.”
The 23-year-old Russian, who backs up countryman Ilya Bryzgalov, has tormented the Islanders since joining the Flyers before last season as a free agent. Bobrovsky (10-3-1) is 7-0 against New York.
“He’s been strong for us, no doubt. He was really sharp,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “And he’s been terrific against the Islanders.”
Hartnell’s power-play goal at 17:20 of the first period put Philadelphia ahead after Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov was whistled for tripping. Hartnell’s team-leading 19th of the season came off a pass from Jaromir Jagr, who has more points against the Islanders than any team during his 19-year NHL career.
New York was 0-for-4 on the power play.
“I was pleased with our work ethic,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “Bottom line is they scored a power-play goal and we didn’t. It came down to special teams.”
Simmonds banked a shot off of Nabokov’s skate at 13:08 of the second for his 11th of the season after Nabokov fumbled the puck behind the net and had trouble getting back into position in the crease.
“This one is tough to swallow because I thought we played really well,” said Nabokov, who was denied his 300th NHL victory. “We just have to keep working hard and try again on Saturday night back here against Buffalo.”
Okposo ruined Bobrovsky’s bid for his first career shutout 22 seconds into the third when he knocked in the rebound of a shot by Andrew MacDonald for his 10th goal.
Tavares scored with 17 seconds left to make it 3-2 after Couturier netted his eighth of the season to give Philadelphia a two-goal lead with 1:30 remaining.
“I did see many positives from us,” Islanders defenceman and captain Mark Streit said. “We battled hard and played physical. We just have to find more consistency at a high level.”
Tavares’ assist on Okposo’s goal extended his point streak to a career-best seven games. Tavares, selected earlier Thursday to play in his first NHL All-Star game, has four goals and 10 assists during the spurt.
Talbot was shaken up late in the game after a punishing hit along the boards in the Philadelphia zone by Islanders defenceman Steve Staois. Talbot seemed stunned, and temporarily was unable to stand on his skates. The play went unpenalized. Talbot returned and was on the ice when Couturier scored what proved to be the winning goal.
NOTES: Tavares will be the Islanders’ lone representative at the all-star game this month at Ottawa. … Philadelphia has won four of five since the Winter Classic. … Jagr has 59 goals and 83 assists in 93 games against the Islanders. … New York is 1-18-5 against Philadelphia since the end of the 2006-07 season.