Elliott starts, Isles look like the better team and Flyers' season pushed to brink


The Flyers' turnaround 2019-20 season is walking toward the end of the plank.

With a 3-2 loss Sunday night at Scotiabank Arena in Game 4 of their best-of-seven second-round series against the Islanders, the Flyers are one loss away from being finished in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

New York, which has won 10 of 13 games in the postseason, outscoring the opposition 43-22, has gotten the best of the Flyers, especially when the game wears on. The Islanders just look like the better club. Can the Flyers win the next three against this team?

The Flyers might be a few breakdowns or plays away from the series being much closer, but that can make for a monumental difference in a best-of-seven series between two of the final four Eastern Conference clubs left.

"We busted a gut out there, we worked our butts off from the start of the game to the end," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said postgame in a video interview. "We weren’t perfect."

The Flyers are 1-17 all-time in best-of-seven series when trailing 3-1. In NHL history, a team has erased a 3-1 deficit to win a series 29 times, four of those comebacks being from down 3-0.

Brian Elliott got the surprising nod in net. Sean Couturier scored in the middle frame and Ivan Provorov netted a marker late in the final stanza, giving the Flyers their first goals in the second and third periods of this series — which tells you a lot about why the club is in a 3-1 hole.

• For the first time since Jan. 8 and in a span of 39 games, the Flyers lost consecutive outings.

Bad, bad timing, as well.

The offensive issues have become glaring as the Flyers have scored 1.80 goals per game over 10 games in the first and second rounds.

• The Flyers have gotten outplayed by the Islanders in the third period and have not gotten the necessary production from their go-to producers.

Tough to win with that recipe at this juncture of the playoffs.

Including three games in the regular season and the four games in the series, New York has outscored the Flyers 13-3 in the final 20 minutes.

The Islanders have made plays when they need to and when it matters most.

For the Flyers, they remain without a goal from Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny over 13 games in the playoffs, while Jakub Voracek is scoreless in the series.

The improved depth on the Flyers is a major reason why this team is in its first second-round series since 2012. But at this point, the Flyers must have their big names doing more.

The next step for Konecny in his career will be playoff production. An extended postseason run and being a focal point is new territory for the 23-year-old.

• Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who the Islanders made a splash to acquire at the Feb. 24 trade deadline, has seven goals and a plus-13 rating in the playoffs.

He blew past the Flyers to give New York a crucial 2-1 lead in the third period. Provorov and Matt Niskanen have not been great in this series. On the play, Provorov went after the puck carrier Scott Mayfield to cut him off, but the problem was Niskanen, who looked like he had tired legs, was beat up ice by Pageau, setting up a breakaway chance.

The 33-year-old Niskanen has just looked a step behind too often in these playoffs and Provorov hasn't been as sharp as we've seen in the past during this series.

As the Flyers emptied their net late in the third period, Provorov trimmed the deficit to 3-2 but it was too late.

• After starting 11 of the Flyers' 12 games in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament and all nine through the first and second rounds, Carter Hart backed up Elliott.

The move was undeniably surprising. Sunday was the second game of a back-to-back set, but prior to the contest, Vigneault called it the "most important" game of the Flyers' season so far. It absolutely was with the Flyers in danger of falling behind 3-1 in a series against Barry Trotz and the defensive-minded Islanders.

It presented a scenario in which you almost certainly go with your No. 1 guy, a 22-year-old franchise goalie who is 3-0-0 with a 1.65 goals-against average in games after a loss during the playoffs. Hart had not been a problem for the Flyers through the first three games of the series, either.

Maybe Vigneault wanted to go with a fresh, veteran netminder; sometimes a goalie change can serve as a wake-up call for the skaters in front. The Flyers trust the 35-year-old Elliott and the thought process could have been if the Flyers could steal Game 4, they'd have a very rested Hart for Game 5.

No doubt, though, an interesting and risky move.

"Back-to-back had certainly something to it, but both our goaltenders all year long have played extremely well for us, have played a lot of important games and won us some big games," Vigneault said. "With the quick turnaround, with the three [games] in four [days], possibly four [games] in six [days], and now if we're going to win this series, we’ve got to get it to seven, I just felt a fresh Brian would give us the chance to win."

Elliott, playing in his third meaningful game (second start) in close to six months, gave the Flyers a chance with 30 saves, 18 of which came in the first period.

Brock Nelson beat Elliott twice with New York's first and third goals. Elliott did not get any help on either of the markers. Philippe Myers had a turnover on the first goal, which opened the game's scoring in the second period, while the third goal came on an odd-man rush and cushioned the Islanders' lead to 3-1 in the final frame.

The Islanders also started their backup in Thomas Greiss. With a 2-1 series lead, Trotz had more wiggle room in his decision.

• Couturier was one of the Flyers' top-end producers to step up in Game 4, at least on the score sheet.

The Selke Trophy finalist went right to the net and redirected a shot for a huge second-period equalizer. The Flyers outshot New York in the middle stanza 17-3, but once again, they couldn't finish plays in the all-important third period and the Islanders did.


• Oskar Lindblom provided a victory before the start of Game 4.

• The series continues Tuesday with Game 5 at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

For the full series schedule, click here.

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