The New York Islanders fell prey to their own foibles, to a Metropolitan Division team headed in the opposite direction — in this, the first of five meetings to come — and to the same old sub-mediocrity in an ugly, penalty-free 7-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Both teams were coming off playing last night, and both teams started their goalies on back-to-back nights.
But Thomas Greiss was given far more work than Cam Ward as the Canes won their fourth in a row at home and 14th in their last 16 home games, pulling within a point of the final wild card spot currently held by Philadelphia.
The Isles, with the loss, remain deservedly last in the East.
John Tavares opened scoring early, following up his forecheck to tip in a Scott Mayfield shot from the point and give the Isles a 1-0 lead at 4:16. The Hurricanes bounced back, firing 17 shots on Thomas Greiss but not equalizing until 16:26, when Brock McGinn began an evening of singlehandedly having his way with the Isles.
But two minutes later Tavares added his second of the night (or maybe he didn’t: the goal originally credited to Anders Lee, then changed to Tavares, then changed back to Lee...) when Lee ripped a one-timer that sure looked like Tavares deflected to send the Isles to the first intermission up 2-1.
This view isn’t as clear, but the rear views sure looked like a Tavares deflection:
A Mess of a Middle Period
The first period was somewhat evenly played and gave hope for the Islanders, hope that was strengthened by Jason Chimera extending the lead to 3-1 just 1:52 into the second period off a sweet pass from the corner by Anthony Beauvillier.
Then the onslaught happened.
Wave after wave of counterattack and Hurricanes goals on the transition. When it was all over the Hurricanes had outshot the Isles 18-8 in the second period (35-20 through two periods) and logged three unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead into the second intermission.
Granted, the third and fourth goals required excellent, laser-precision passes from McGinn and good finishes by Elias Lindholm and Brett Pesce (jumping in from defense), respectively, but both came from the Hurricanes pouncing, outnumbering the Isles on the counter, and carving up the defense.
Maybe Thomas Hickey could have blocked Pesce on the go-ahead goal, but he played body position on Pesce while also having to mind the unguarded trailing attacker just behind Pesce.
Another Night, Another Hat Trick (or Not?)
Of course, when you have John Tavares, you always theoretically have a chance.
So it was that Tavares tied the game at 4-4 on his second consecutive hat trick (or maybe not, see above) — hey, we were being facetious when we requested that in the preview — just 68 seconds into the third period.
I would describe the goal, but I’m powerless to. It was such a ridiculous mess of bounces and messy keep-ins leading up to the goal that I’ll just let Keith take care of it:
What a beautiful mess that was.— Rookie Example (@KeithLHHockey) January 15, 2017
Assists were rightly given to Anders Lee and Josh Bailey, and if there were third and fourth and seventh and eighth assists Lee and Bailey would get those too.
That tie lasted all of four and a half minutes. After another Hurricanes wave required another big save from Greiss, on the ensuing faceoff Lee Stempniak sniped through traffic, upstairs past a screened Greiss.
And just like the second period, the Hurricanes didn’t stop. Teuvo Teravainen notched his 10th of the season at 11:44 to give the Hurricanes insurance, and Jordan Staal added to that give them laughing rights.
With just 6:03 remaining after Staal’s goal, Jean-Francois Berube got into the game as the Hurricanes beat Greiss for the seventh time on 43 shots in 54 minutes of play five-on-five hilarity.
Taking that as the universal sign of surrender and mercy, the Hurricanes only gave Berube two shots to turn away. By the end the total shots on goal were 45-32, and it wasn’t even that close, really.
There were no penalties called. There needn’t be any. The Hurricanes easily settled this thing at five-on-five.
So the Isles actually split this road back-to-back, thanks to last night’s win in Florida. But it hardly feels that way, as the Isles needed a John Tavares hat trick last night to win and an almost-maybe hat trick tonight just to stay in it through 41 minutes.
Even when Tavares tied it at 4-4 it felt like he was merely postponing the inevitable, and so it was.
The Isles continue this road trip in Boston on Monday, for a matinee game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Bruins have been scuffling along a bit lately, though they trounced the Flyers earlier today.