Semyon Varlamov‘s teammates shouldered the blame after the New York Islanders goalie was pulled at 15:09 of the first period in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Wednesday.
Varlamov set an Islanders record for the longest shutout streak in the Stanley Cup Playoffs 40 seconds into the game to pass the New York postseason record of 136:59, set by Billy Smith in 1980 across three games. He reached 138:17 before Flyers center Kevin Hayes scored at 1:57 of the first period to end the streak. Hayes scored again at 9:43, and Sean Couturier scored at 15:09 to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.
Varlamov, who made seven saves on 10 shots, was replaced at that point by Thomas Greiss, who had not played this postseason. Greiss made 20 saves.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz did not name a starting goalie for Game 3, which was scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed and will be played at a date to be determined in Toronto, the Eastern hub city. The best-of-7 series is tied.
“I was looking for a spark,” Trotz said. “I thought we didn’t help [Varlamov] enough. Three goals … I think it was on nine shots, and I just was looking for something a little bit different. Not his fault. We didn’t give him enough support there. We can share the blame as a group and we have to refocus for tomorrow.”
Varlamov entered Game 2 leading the NHL this postseason in wins (eight), goals-against average (1.50) and save percentage (.941; minimum four games) after making 29 saves in Game 1, a 4-0 win. He became the first Islanders goalie to have consecutive shutouts in the playoffs; he made 21 saves in the series-clinching 4-0 win against the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round.
But after Hayes beat him with a wrist shot from the left face-off circle, Varlamov allowed him to score again from a sharp angle to the short side and make it 2-0.
Couturier made it 3-0 after he powered his way around Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy. Trotz pulled Varlamov after the goal.
“We didn’t give him any help,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “That’s not on Varly, that’s on us in front of him. He’s backed us up enough. I think we can do a better job of giving him better looks and obviously not so many [good chances] in the first 10 minutes of the game.”
The Islanders rallied after the switch and tied the game 3-3 when center Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored with 2:09 remaining in the third period.
Flyers defenseman Philippe Myers won it on Philadelphia’s third shot of overtime, a one-timer from the right point through traffic.
Greiss hadn’t played since July 29, when he made seven saves on eight shots in the third period of a 2-1 exhibition win against the New York Rangers.
“I felt pretty good,” Greiss said. “Our goalie coaches have done a good job keeping me sharp and keeping me going at practice. I felt good out there. It wasn’t bad.”
Varlamov and Greiss alternated starts for the first 33 games of the regular season. Greiss ended up with 29 starts and was 16-9-4 with a 2.74 GAA and a .913 save percentage in 31 games.
Greiss said he’ll be prepared if he gets the call for Game 3.
“That’s a coach’s decision,” Greiss said. “We’ll see what happens there, but I’m always ready.”
The Islanders record for any shutout streak by a goalie is 178:29, set by Glenn Resch from Dec. 2-12, 1975.