The scenario for the New York Islanders heading into their season finale was simple: Win and face the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, or lose and get the Atlantic Division champion Florida Panthers.
However, coach Jack Capuano was more concerned with giving the stars on his banged-up team some rest.
"We have some guys that are dinged up and we have to do what's best for our team," Capuano said after the Islanders lost 5-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night. "(The different playoff scenarios) wouldn't have changed one thought process of our decision-making as a staff. Not at all."
Michael Raffl scored the tiebreaking goal early in the second period and added two assists to lead the Flyers to the win and pushing New York to the top Eastern Conference wild-card spot and a matchup against the Panthers, beginning Thursday at Florida.
"We move forward, but there's some things in our game we need to revisit and talk about," Capuano said. "Now we're going up against a team that we really haven't had too much success this year and it's going to be a battle for us."
Both the Flyers and Islanders had already secured postseason berths and sat their stars. The Islanders were without a multitude of players, including their top line of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen. The Flyers, who will face Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington in the first round, sat forwards Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux, and defenseman Mark Streit.
Nikolay Kulemin and Matt Martin scored for the Islanders. Thomas Greiss started in goal for the Islanders and stopped seven of nine shots he faced in the first period. Christopher Gibson replaced him to start the second period and finished with 15 saves.
Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck, who returned after missing the last three games with an injury, downplayed the notion the Islanders preferred to play the Panthers.
"You can't really choose," he said. "It's a slippery slope when you start choosing opponents and looking ahead. I think it's important to stay in today and do what's best for the team. (Resting players) was what was best for us today. Now we've got Florida and tomorrow morning we'll start thinking about that."
The Islanders' loss gave the crosstown-rival Rangers third place in the Metropolitan Division and a first-round matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Evgeny Medvedev, Shayne Gostisbehere, Scott Laughton and R.J. Umberger also scored for the Flyers, who trailed 2-0 midway through the first period. Michal Neuvirth stopped 15 shots in the teams' season finale that was a game rescheduled from Jan. 23 due to a blizzard.
"I think we played a pretty good game," said the Flyers' Jakub Voracek, who had an assist. "I would say it's a good win for us, for confidence, and now we have to get prepared for Washington."
Raffl gave the Flyers the 3-2 lead as he took a centering pass from Laughton and wristed it past Gibson for his 13th at 6:38 of the second period.
The Islanders had a 5-on-3 for 17 seconds later in the second period, but couldn't take advantage.
Laughton scored on a snap shot from the left slot at 5:50 of the third to give Philadelphia a two-goal lead. Umberger capped the scoring with a power-play goal as he converted a rebound of Raffl's shot with 8:50 to go for his second of the season.
The Flyers finished 3 for 4 on the power play and the Islanders were 0 for 4.
"We're a little gun-shy with all the injuries we've have," Capuano said. "We didn't penalty-kill all the guys that we normally penalty-kill. Those are the decisions I made as a coach or we make as a staff."
Trailing 2-0 midway through the opening period, Gostisbehere got the Flyers on the board with a power-play goal with 8:45 left as he took a pass from Voracek and fired a shot through the five-hole on a screened Greiss for his 17th.
Just 7 seconds after a slashing penalty on Ross Johnston gave the Flyers a 5-on-3 advantage, they tied it as Medvedev fired a one-timer through traffic for his fourth with 8 seconds left in the period.
Kulemin got the Islanders on the scoreboard first, taking a pass from Calvin de Haan, getting around two defenders and poking a backhand past Neuvirth for his ninth at 5:58.
Martin doubled the lead 3:21 later as he redirected a pass from Ryan Pulock past Neuvirth for his career-high 10th of the season.
NOTES: The Islanders also scratched C Casey Cizikas, D Johnny Boychuk, D Brian Strait, D Nick Leddy, and G Jean-Francois Berube. D Travis Hamonic hasn't played since suffering an injury against Columbus on March 31, and C Anders Lee is out indefinitely with a broken fibula. ... Tavares finished the season leading the team in goals (33) and points (70), and Okposo was tops in assists (42). ... The Flyers also sat C Sean Couturier and starting goalie Steve Mason. ... Simmonds led the Flyers with 32 goals, and Giroux was tops with 45 assists and 67 points.
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