PHILADELPHIA, PA — The New York Islanders beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Monday night, thanks to goals from Kyle Palmieri and Mathew Barzal in their first game since acquiring All-Star centre Bo Horvat.
Horvat made his debut a day after the Islanders signed him to an eight-year, $68 million contract. Horvat, 27, was named an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division on Saturday. Horvat had already tied his career high with 31 goals in 49 games for Vancouver this season.
Horvat, according to coach Lane Lambert, can only help the Islanders make a playoff push in a crowded bottom half of the Eastern Conference. The Islanders now have 57 points and are tied for eighth place in the East with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It gives us more options in terms of how it changes moving forward,” Lambert said. “As a group, we know what we need to do. We need to string together some victories. That is the priority right now.”
Horvat had no bearing on New York’s objectives. Palmieri’s seventh goal came on a wrist shot in the first period, snapping the Islanders’ 0-for-26 power-play streak. In the second period, Barzal beat Carter Hart for his 13th goal and a 2-0 lead.
Noah Dobson recorded his 100th career point and 18th assist on Barzal’s goal. Horvat was expected to make an immediate impact.
“Obviously, given his calibre of player and person, he’ll fit in well with this locker room,” Dobson said.
The Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov made 25 saves.
The Flyers’ third goal came from Nicolas Deslauriers.
The Flyers are out of the playoff picture, but perhaps more importantly for some fans, they are out of contention for the No. 1 pick and a chance to draught Connor Bedard, a projected generational talent.
The Flyers won seven of their next eight games after Christmas, then added a three-game winning streak later in the month to gain some much-needed confidence in coach John Tortorella’s first season.
The no-nonsense Tortorella has a no-tank ethos.
“I think there’s a good camaraderie going on right now with this club,” Tortorella said. “I thought January was our best month of hockey. I believe it strengthens the belief. Belief is a very powerful thing when it spreads from one person to another and then to a group. I’m hoping they feel the same way.”
On Monday, the Flyers issued a letter to season-ticket holders that was signed by Tortorella. His mission statement: to effectively inform fans that the road to a Stanley Cup may take some time. However, Flyers fans are accustomed to waiting. Only two Stanley Cups have been won by the franchise, in 1974 and 1975.
“I’m not going to lie to you – and I want you to know this – we’re not there yet,” Tortorella wrote. “This year was the first step in building the future of the Flyers and restoring our reputation as one of the most respected teams in hockey. We’re in the thick of the season right now, and we’ll see how our team responds to the challenges that come with such a demanding schedule.”