The top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers are no longer the most successful team in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Flyers, who are 7-3 in the postseason, have been surpassed by their second-round opponent, the New York Islanders, who are 8-2 following a 4-0 victory against Philadelphia in Game 1 of their series Monday.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 29 shots for his second consecutive shutout and defenseman Andy Greene scored his first playoff goal in more than a decade to give the Islanders the series lead.
Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Toronto.
“He’s playing fantastic,” Greene said of his goaltender. “He’s making the hard saves look easy and in our breakdowns, we know he’s there for us.”
Greene, 37, became the 10th player in NHL history to go at least 10 years between playoff goals, giving the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 6:06 of the first. New York outshot the Flyers 15-4 in the period.
“The first period was probably the worst we’ve had since we’ve been in the bubble,” Flyers center Claude Giroux said.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Anders Lee each scored in the third period for the Islanders and Devon Toews closed it out with an empty-net goal.
“We’re playing the right way as much as possible and that leads to our success,” Lee said.
Varlamov became the first Islanders goalie ever to record consecutive playoff shutouts, including a 4-0 victory against Washington to close out the Islanders’ first-round series in five games. Varlamov’s playoff shutout streak of 136 minutes and 20 seconds is just 39 seconds shy of Billy Smith’s franchise record.
“The guys played unbelievable again today in front of me,” Varlamov said. “It feels good to get back-to-back shutouts, but at this point, it’s not about shutouts, it’s playoff hockey, so for me the most important thing is to get the win and get ready for the next game. I’m not really focusing on it right now, of course I am excited about it, I’m not going to lie, but it is what it is.”
Varlamov improved to 5-0 in Game 1s in his career.
“We know how important the first game of each series is,” he said. “It’s important to win the first one and then have a good start and we did that again today. It’s going to be a long series. … We’ll have to move on from this game and get ready for the next one.”
Flyers goalie Carter Hart stopped 25 of the 28 shots he faced in the opener, but Philadelphia was unable to solve Varlamov.
“We played with speed and put some pucks on net, but we’ve got to cash in on some of those chances,” Flyers center Kevin Hayes said.
The Flyers swept through the round-robin portion of the playoffs to earn the conference’s top seed, then defeated Montreal in six games in the first round for their first playoff series victory since 2012.
“This group has always found a way to respond and we’ll respond Wednesday,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said.
–Field Level Media