Toronto — Brock Nelson is sure glad the New York Islanders acquired Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the NHL trade deadline in February.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz wasn’t sure what the score would have been if not for backup goalie Thomas Greiss’ performance in his first start in nearly six months.
Pageau scored the go-ahead goal 7:18 into the third period, and Greiss stopped 36 shots — including a whopping 16 in the second period — to push the Islanders within a win of advancing to the Eastern Conference finals following a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night.
Nelson scored twice, both set up by Josh Bailey, and the Islanders gained a 3-1 lead of the best-of-seven second-round series with Game 5 set for Tuesday night.
New York is seeking to make its first conference finals appearance since 1993, when the Islanders lost to Montreal to six games.
None of that success would’ve have been possible if not for Greiss, who got the start in place of Semyon Varlamov with the teams playing on back-to-back nights following New York’s 3-1 win on Saturday.
“Tonight there’s no question that `Greisser’ was a big part of the solution in what my opinion was the worst game we’ve played to this point in the playoffs,” Trotz said of the goalie making his first start since a 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina on March 7.
He was referring to a second period which ended with the score tied at 1 despite the Islanders being outshot 17-3 and going nearly 11 minutes without a shot on net.
Then Trotz credited Pageau for scoring his seventh goal of the playoffs on a breakaway.
“After that second period, we needed something to sort of push them back, and that did it,” Trotz said.
Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov scored for the East’s top-seeded Flyers, who lost consecutive games for the first time since an 0-3-1 skid from Dec. 31-Jan. 7. The Flyers also went with backup Brian Elliott, who stopped 30 shots in place of Carter Hart.
Though Provorov scored with 64 seconds left and the Flyers net empty, Philadelphia managed just one more shot on goal, as the Islanders muddled up the puck in their own corner for much of the final 20 seconds.
Though the Flyers finished out-shooting the Islanders 38-33, a lack of finish and defensive breakdowns cost them.
“We busted a gut out there. We worked our (rears) off from the start of the game till the end,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “In the third period, we made a couple of mistakes and they made us pay for it. We had some looks and just couldn’t find a way to put more than we did past their goaltender.”
The Flyers were caught flat-footed in allowing Pageau to sneak in behind them.
Defenseman Scott Mayfield jumped into the rush to set up the go-ahead goal. Accepting a pass from Devon Toews, Mayfield fed Pageau for a breakaway. Pageau drove down the middle and sneaked a shot through Elliott’s legs, with the puck having enough spin on it to dribble over the goal line.
This is the type of clutch production the Islanders were seeking in giving up three draft picks, including a condition first-rounder this year, to acquire the 27-year-old play-maker from Ottawa on Feb. 24.
“The payoff for him is obviously paying off right away,” Nelson said of Pageau. “He’s a guy you can lean on in any situation. He kind of does it all. He’s a guy you appreciate and love to have him on your team.”
Nelson made it 3-1 by scoring four-minutes later by completing a give-and-go with Bailey on a two-on-one break. Driving the Flyers zone up the right wing, Nelson fed Bailey, who returned the pass allowing Nelson to tap the puck in the open left side.
Greiss, meantime, was sharp throughout. Midway through the first period, he kicked out his right pad to foil Joel Farabee’s redirection. With two minutes left in the second period, Greiss shot up his glove to stop Kevin Hayes’ snapshot off a faceoff.
The Flyers’ offense has essentially dried up, with captain Claude Giroux having yet to score this postseason.
After combining for 11 goals in sweeping the top-seeded playoff-opening round-robin three-game series, Philadelphia has managed just 18 in its past 10 outings.
“We have to find ways to score a goal,” said Giroux, who played a big role in setting up Couturier’s goal, even though it didn’t lead to an assist. “Obviously, a little frustrated. Not too sure what to say. I know I can play better.”
More NHL playoffs
Dallas 5, Colorado 4: Radek Faksa had a goal and two assists, Roope Hintz scored the last of three power-play goals by Dallas and the Stars beat Colorado to take 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.
The Stars, who led 3-0 in the first period before Colorado had its first shot on goal, saw their margin cut to one before Hintz was patient with the puck about 71/2 minutes into the third period. There were only a couple of seconds left on a power play when he scored on Dallas’ seventh shot during that segment after initially waiting for some traffic to clear.
Dallas then got a gift goal only 32 seconds later when Avalanche rookie defender Cale Makar, who had scored late in the second period, tried to clear a puck from behind his own net and flubbed the attempt. Stars rookie Denis Gurianov knocked it in for a 5-2 lead.
John Klingberg had a goal and an assist for the Stars, who need one win to get to their first conference final since 2008. Game 5 is Monday night.
Valeri Nichushkin scored two goals for the Avalanche. Vladislav Namestnikov added a goal with 3.6 seconds remaining when Colorado had an extra skater on the ice.
Stars goalie Anton Khudobin stopped 33 shots. Pavel Francouz made 21 saves before Michael Hutchinson made his playoff debut and stopped three shots.
Las Vegas 5, Vancouver 3: Max Pacioretty (Michigan) scored twice and added an assist, and Vegas rallied for three goals in the third period and beat Vancouver.
The Golden Knights took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven second-round series. With a win in Game 5 on Tuesday, Vegas can eliminate Vancouver, the last Canadian team from the postseason.
William Karlsson, Nate Schmidt, and Chandler Stephenson also scored for Vegas. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves and earned his third win of the playoffs.
Shea Theodore added two assists, giving him four goals and 10 assists in the playoffs.
Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, and Tyler Toffoli scored for Vancouver. Jacob Markstrom, in his 14th start, made 28 saves in the loss.
(6) N.Y. Islanders 3, (1) Philadelphia 1
Monday, Aug. 24: N.Y. Islanders 4, Philadelphia 0
Wednesday, Aug. 26: Philadelphia 4, N.Y. Islanders 3, OT
Thursday, Aug. 27: Philadelphia vs. N.Y. Islanders, ppd.
Saturday, Aug. 29: N.Y. Islanders 3, Philadelphia 1
Sunday, Aug. 30: N.Y. Islanders 3, Philadelphia 2
Tuesday, Sept. 1: Philadelphia vs. N.Y. Islanders, 7 p.m.
x-Thursday, Sept. 3: N.Y. Islanders vs. Philadelphia, TBD
x-Saturday, Sept. 5: N.Y. Islanders vs. Philadelphia, TBD
(2) Tampa Bay 3, (4) Boston 1
Sunday, Aug. 23: Boston 3, Tampa Bay 2
Tuesday, Aug. 25 : Tampa Bay 4, Boston 3, OT
Wednesday, Aug. 26: Tampa Bay 7, Boston 1
Friday, Aug. 28: Tampa Bay vs. Boston, ppd.
Saturday, Aug. 29: Tampa Bay 3, Boston 1
Monday, Aug. 31: Boston vs. Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.
x-Wednesday, Sept. 2: Tampa Bay vs. Boston, TBD
x-Thursday, Sept. 3: Boston vs. Tampa Bay, TBD
(1) Las Vegas 3, (5) Vancouver 1
Sunday, Aug. 23: Las Vegas 5, Vancouver 0
Tuesday, Aug. 25: Vancouver 5, Las Vegas 2
Thursday, Aug. 27: Las Vegas vs. Vancouver, ppd.
Saturday, Aug. 29: Las Vegas 3, Vancouver 0
Sunday, Aug. 30: Las Vegas 5, Vancouver 3
Tuesday, Sept. 1: Vancouver vs. Las Vegas, 9:45 p.m.
x-Thursday, Sept. 3: Las Vegas vs. Vancouver, TBD
x-Friday, Sept. 4: Vancouver vs. Las Vegas, TBD
(3) Dallas 3, (2) Colorado 1
Saturday, Aug. 22: Dallas 5, Colorado 3
Monday, Aug. 24: Dallas 5, Colorado 2
Wednesday, Aug. 26: Colorado 6, Dallas 4
Friday, Aug. 28: Colorado vs. Dallas, ppd.
Sunday, Aug. 30: Dallas 5, Colorado 4
Monday, Aug. 31: Dallas vs. Colorado, 9:45 p.m.
x-Wednesday, Sept. 2: Colorado vs. Dallas, TBD
x-Friday, Sept. 4: Colorado vs. Dallas, TBD