Thomas Greiss stopped 16 shots and the New York Islanders advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1993, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 in Game 7 of the second-round series Saturday night.
The Islanders advanced to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Brock Nelson had a goal and two assists, and defensemen Scott Mayfield and Andy Greene scored 3:46 apart in the first period. Anthony Beauvillier had an empty-netter with 6:18 left and New York bounced back after failing to close out the series in losing the previous two games in overtime.
Greiss posted his first career playoff shutout in his first Game 7. He was making his third appearance of the series, and second start, in place of Semyon Varlamov, who allowed nine goals on 63 shots in losing the past two games in overtime, including a 5-4 double-overtime loss in Game 6.
“It’s awesome. It’s the guys in the room. We all compete for each other. It’s a great achievement for the whole team, for fans. I’m happy to help,” Greiss said. “It was an unreal game. It was the best defensive game I’ve seen the team play.”
Coach Barry Trotz said he went with Greiss because he was fresh, and felt Varlamov needed a break. In crediting Greiss, Trotz was impressed by the focus his entire team showed.
“We didn’t get small by the moment, we got big by the moment,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “I liked the fact that we recognized when we’re at our best. And when we’re at our best, there’s a real sharp focus.”
Greiss picked up the New York’s final two wins of the series, after a 26-save outing in a 3-2 win in Game 4.
The Islanders face a short turnaround in having to travel to Edmonton, Alberta, to face the well-rested Tampa Bay Lightning in a conference final series that opens Monday. The Lightning have been off since a 3-2 double-overtime win over Boston in Game 5 on Monday.
It’s the third meeting between the two teams, with Tampa Bay winning the previous two in five games, including a second-round series in 2016.
The Flyers ran out of gas in a game they fell behind 3-0, which led to coach Alain Vigneault pulling Carter Hart for an extra attacker with seven minutes remaining. Hart stopped 22 shots.
“After they scored that first goal, we just never had that same bounce or the same pop,” Vigneault said. “We weren’t good enough tonight. That’s why we lost.”
Flyers forward Sean Couturier returned after missing Game 6, and revealed he had a sprained ligament.
“We didn’t create enough. we didn’t win enough 1 on 1 battles to get our chances,” said Couturier, who hit the post in the opening minute. “It wasn’t good enough.”
Defense became an issue for Philadelphia. After allowing just nine goals through the first seven playoff games, they closed giving up 31 in their last nine.
Philadelphia’s power-power play unit particularly fizzled in closing the playoffs going 0 for 17 over its final eight games, and converting just 4 of 52 chances.
The Islanders became the third team of the second round of the playoffs to win Game 7 after squandering a 3-1 series lead. The Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights advanced to the meet in the Western Conference finals after each won Game 7 of their series on Friday night.
Mayfield opened the scoring with his first career playoff goal 9:27 into the game. The Islanders worked the puck around the top to Mayfield at the right point, from where he had plenty of room to skate in and snap a shot in off the far post, with Mathew Barzal causing havoc in front.
The goal provided Mayfield some payback after his broken stick led the Flyers rushing up the ice and Ivan Provorov scoring in double-overtime in Game 6.
A poor clearing attempt, picked off by Nelson, led to Greene scoring less than four minutes later. Derick Brassard drove the right post, drawing the Flyers attention, and fed a pass through the middle to Greene in the left circle, from where he snapped the shot into open side. Hart wasn’t anticipating the pass, and was late in diving across.
Nelson then made it 3-0 by converting Josh Bailey’s pass on a two-on-one break with 8:34 left in the second period. Nelson began the play by stripping Flyers captain Claude Giroux from behind inside the New York end.
Philadelphia managed just three shots in the second period, though Greiss was forced to make a sharp left pad save to foil Kevin Hayes, who managed to break in alone with 4:50 left.