UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Gloves were dropped and blows delivered twice in the first 21 seconds. James van Riemsdyk then delivered the knockout punch for the Philadelphia Flyers, who pounded the New York Islanders again.
Van Riemsdyk scored two goals in the first period and finished his first NHL hat trick in the third to help the Flyers remain alone atop the Eastern Conference with a 4-1 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night.
“Stuff like this is definitely pretty cool,” said van Riemsdyk, a native of nearby New Jersey.
Jeff Carter staked the Flyers (45-19-10) to the lead at 8:11, and van Riemsdyk made it 2-0 just 22 seconds later.
Blake Comeau got the Islanders (29-35-12) within a goal, but van Riemsdyk scored again before the period ended.
Van Riemsdyk’s 19th of the season made it 4-1 at 9:15 of the third during a power play and gave him his first three-goal game in 145 career contests. Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves as Philadelphia tied the team mark with its 24th road win (24-9-4).
“They had a lot of shots, but most of them were from the outside,” Flyers captain Mike Richards said. “The defence did a good job of clearing the second and third opportunities. Bob made a couple of big saves to keep the score at 2-0 and 3-1. It was a good game.”
Philadelphia beat the Islanders for the fifth time this season and has won 20 of 21 meetings between the division rivals. Once Buffalo topped New Jersey, New York was eliminated from post-season contention for the fourth straight year and fifth out of six since the NHL lockout.
“These last six games are still important,” said Rick DiPietro, who made 18 saves. “It’s important we keep playing and getting better. You just want to fast forward to October with everyone healthy.”
The Flyers reached 100 points, keeping them ahead of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Philadelphia surely felt at home in this one as Nassau Coliseum was full of orange-and-black-clad Flyers fans, who loudly supported their team.
So much so that when van Riemsdyk scored his third goal, the Islanders had to watch their home ice littered with hats—and even one flying shoe.
“It just shows a lot of Flyers fans. Wherever we go there are Flyers fans in every building,” van Riemsdyk said.
Philadelphia remained two points ahead of Washington in the East and moved four in front of idle Pittsburgh in the chase for the Atlantic Division title. The Flyers snapped a stretch of four straight shootouts—in which they lost three—and earned a point for the ninth straight game (5-0-4).
“We still didn’t play to where we’re capable of, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” van Riemsdyk said. “We can build off this and keep getting better as the season winds down.”
The game started with a bang, before any of the offensive fireworks.
Off the opening faceoff, New York’s Micheal Haley and Philadelphia counterpart Daniel Carcillo dropped the gloves for a fight in which Haley landed the bigger shots. The crowd was still settling in when Flyers defenceman Sean O’Donnell and Zenon Konopka squared off in the Flyers’ end 19 seconds later.
“When I realized who was starting for us, and we got on the ice and I saw their starters, and right before the faceoff they were talking to each other. I was like, ‘OK,'” Flyers forward Danny Briere said. “I thought it was great. It got me into the game and pumped me up right away.”
Carter broke the deadlock off a faceoff win by Claude Giroux in the offensive zone. The puck came to Carter at the top edge of the left circle for a hard wrist shot that beat DiPietro.
Van Riemsdyk then took over, scoring twice in a span of less than five minutes. He raced down the right wing, cut around defenceman Jack Hillen and stuffed in the puck to make it 2-0.
Comeau cut the deficit in half at 10:28, but van Riemsdyk restored the two-goal edge at 13:25.
“We’ve got a few games left and we’re going to play hard and see what happens,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.
Notes: New York LW Trevor Gillies was eligible to return after serving a 10-game NHL suspension, but didn’t play. … Giroux, who played in his 200th NHL game, had two assists. He has a point in seven of 10 games (3 goals, 9 assists). … Van Riemsdyk had gone nine games without a goal. … The Flyers reached 100 points in 74 games, the fastest they hit the mark since 1985-86. … Philadelphia went 1-for-1 on the power play, breaking a five-game drought.