Carter Hart couldn’t save the Philadelphia Flyers in a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Saturday.
Hart made 26 saves on 29 shots, and after the game, Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault wouldn’t say if the 22-year-old would get another chance or if veteran backup Brian Elliott would start Game 4 in Toronto, the East hub city, on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
With the Flyers trailing the best-of-7 series, Vigneault made it clear they must play better regardless of which goalie is chosen.
“Especially our top-end guys,” Vigneault said. “They need to make the plays that we need to make with the puck. The great thing about it is we can get right back at it tomorrow and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Flyers started well Saturday and took a 1-0 lead on Tyler Pitlick‘s goal with 5:42 remaining in the first period, but the Islanders controlled play after that and scored the next three on Hart, who got a piece on each goal.
Matt Martin was left alone in front of the net on his tying goal at 7:12 of the second period, but Hart was in position to make the save on a shot that squeezed through the opening under his right arm. Hart also nearly stopped Leo Komarov‘s backhand from in front that gave New York a 2-1 lead with six seconds left in the second, but the puck bounced off the inside of his pads and trickled over the goal line.
Anders Lee‘s power-play goal that made it 3-1 at 3:41 of the third period was actually a backhand pass intended for Mathew Barzal at the left post. When Hart reached out with his stick to knock away the pass, he accidently redirected it into the net.
“I saw out of the corner of my eye [Barzal] on the back door,” Hart said. “They passed it to Anders Lee in front. I knew he was going to pass it, so I stuck my stick in the lane there and it ends up going off the top of my blade there and in the net. So I’ve just got to make sure I put it in a better spot next time. It happens.”
Vigneault didn’t blame Hart. The Islanders outshout the Flyers 21-7 following Pitlick’s goal through the end of the second period.
“I thought Carter did what goaltenders got to do, give your team a chance and he did,” Vigneault said. “Unfortunately, after the good start we weren’t as good.”
The game followed a similar pattern to Game 2 on Wednesday, when Philadelphia took a 3-0 lead in the first period before New York came back in the second and third period to tie it. The Flyers were fortunate in that game that defenseman Philippe Myers scored in overtime to give them a 4-3 win, but they have yet to put together a solid 60 minutes.
New York has outscored Philadelphia 9-0 in the second and third period in the series.
“It’s something that we’ve been talking about,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who has yet to score in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. “Tomorrow, before next game, we’re going to look at clips and see what we can do to keep that momentum. When we are playing our best, I think we’re a hard team to beat. We just have to be able to do that for 60 minutes.”
The Flyers are 11-0-0 since Jan. 7 in the game following a loss, including their win in Game 2 after 4-0 loss in Game 1, so they have reason to be confident they can rebound again Sunday.
If Hart starts, it would be the second time in the playoffs he’s done so on consecutive days. The first time came in Game 5 of the first round against the Montreal Canadiens, when he allowed four goals on 32 shots in a 5-3 loss, after making 29 saves in a 2-0 Game 4 win, which was his second straight shutout.
Elliott has started 44 postseason games in his 13 NHL seasons, including when he made 16 saves in a 3-1 win against the Washington Capitals in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers on Aug. 6. The 35-year-old relieved Hart in a 5-0 loss in Game 2 against Montreal on Aug. 14, allowing one goal on six shots.
Hart said he will be ready if called upon.
“But if not, then I know [Elliott] is more than capable,” Hart said. “He’s had a lot of playoff experience and he’s been great for us this season. At the end of the day, it’s not my decision.”