UNIONDALE, N.Y. – The end of the Philadelphia Flyers’ three-game losing streak might prove to be the least significant development in their win over the New York Islanders.
The talk after the 3-1 victory Tuesday revolved around two big problems: the latest injury to star centre Danny Briere and the benching of fellow forward Scott Hartnell by coach John Stevens for the entire third period.
With former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on hand for the Veterans Day matinee, Briere staked the Flyers to a 1-0 advantage in the second period but didn’t complete another shift following his fifth goal – all scored in his past four games.
Briere, who has scored in four straight games, made a quick return following abdominal surgery. He came back Saturday night after a six-game absence and put Philadelphia ahead 1-0 in that one, too, but the Flyers lost 2-1 to Tampa Bay.
“I am playing it on the cautious side,” Briere said. “It’s a lower body injury and at this point I’d rather not say more. It has nothing to do with the surgery. It’s just another thing that popped up.”
Hartnell played 14 shifts, totalling 11 minutes, 19 seconds, over the first two periods, but didn’t get off the bench again.
“It didn’t look like he wanted to play, so we went in another direction,” Stevens said.
Hartnell wasn’t the only one to incur Stevens’ wrath. Joffrey Lupul was relegated to fourth-line duty and played only four shifts for 2:21 in the first period. His ice time increased later, likely due to the absences of Briere and Hartnell.
“Maybe it’s a good thing,” said captain Mike Richards, who scored a short-handed goal in the third. “You play well, you’re going to play, and if you don’t play well, you’re not going to play. Maybe it pushes you more.”
Hartnell was waiting for his name to be called, but sensed that a benching could be coming. He said Stevens yelled at him earlier for not moving his feet and other deficiencies.
“Things like that happen. If I play 20 minutes or five minutes, as long as we win the game,” the eight-year NHL veteran said. “Even watching on the bench, it’s a good feeling to win.
“You just deal with it and work hard in practice. I have no problems sitting if he doesn’t think I’m doing a good job. I’m a positive person. Let’s hope he holds everyone accountable, it doesn’t matter what number you’re wearing on the back.”
Richards gave goalie Martin Biron some breathing room by scoring the Flyers’ sixth short-handed goal with 9:09 left to make it 2-0, and Kimmo Timonen added an empty-netter with four seconds remaining. Philadelphia will play at Pittsburgh on Thursday and Montreal on Saturday before returning home.
New York forward Doug Weight was playing the left point during the Islanders’ final power play, and got caught. That allowed Richards to come down on a 2-on-1 with Simon Gagne, while Philadelphia was short-handed for the eighth time. Richards got to a rebound of Gagne’s shot to score his fifth.
“When you go 0-for-8 with two 5-on-3s and give up a short-handed goal, it’s on us on the power play,” Weight said. “No matter what five guys you have out there, you have to change the momentum of the game. You have to score on those. We didn’t.”
Islanders goalie Joey MacDonald blamed poor coverage for allowing Richards to score the short-handed goal on the rebound.
“My number one thing is just stopping the puck,” MacDonald said. “I couldn’t have read it any more perfectly. That’s where I wanted the rebound to go. Unfortunately, we didn’t backcheck and pick up the guy. The power play has to outwork the penalty kill, and it didn’t.”
Biron fell 3:40 short of his first shutout of the season when Trent Hunter cut the deficit to 2-1.
Not even the NHL debut of Josh Bailey could help the Islanders avoid their third straight loss (0-2-1). The 19-year-old centre, taken with the ninth pick in this year’s draft, hoped to crack the lineup long before game 15, but was sidelined by a muscle strain since the pre-season.
Islanders coach Scott Gordon said Bailey already looks as though he belongs.
“It was good, but just didn’t end the way I wanted it to,” Bailey said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t (nervous). As the game went on, I got more comfortable out there.”
Just 1:14 after the Flyers killed off a two-man disadvantage for the second time in the game – this one lasting a full two minutes – Briere gave Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. Briere used Islanders defenceman Brett Skinner as a screen and beat MacDonald with a shot with 6:20 left in the second.
Notes: For the second straight season, Powell dropped the ceremonial first puck at an Islanders home game. … The Flyers were previously 0-4-3 with Briere in the lineup. … Bailey was whistled for two of the Islanders’ four penalties.