The New York Islanders split their two-game weekend swing through the former Southeast, following up Saturday night’s impressive win in Atlantic-leading Tampa with a 4-2 loss to the Metropolitan Division foe Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh on Sunday evening.
The Islanders had beaten the Hurricanes in a close one Thursday night in Brooklyn, and both teams were coming off of victories on the road Saturday night.
But on Sunday the Isles couldn’t erase the effects of a poor start. Trailing 3-1 after the first — and 2-0 just five minutes into the game — the Isles controlled play throughout the second period but never got the goal that would bring them back into the game.
Outside of giving Jaroslav Halak a start in goal, the Islanders lineup was the same, with Cal Clutterbuck still out from illness and Alan Quine in his place. Dennis Seidenberg and Scott Mayfield remained the blueline scratches.
First Period: Wrong foot
When both teams traveled into town for the second half of a back-to-back, you pay attention to which team can get the early jump while the legs are still fresh.
The Islanders were not that team.
Andrew Ladd was whistled for roughing in the opening minute, and the referees declined to maintain that strict adherence to penalty standards when Adam Pelech’s stick was clearly held to prevent a clear early on the penalty kill.
So the Hurricanes power play continued and built repeat pressure despite two Calvin de Haan clearances until Sebastian Aho one-timed a brilliant saucered cross-zone pass by Teuvo Teravainen.
Just 1:50 after that one, Teravainen notched his own goal, on a feed from Aho, with an end-over-end shot that deflected off of Adam Pelech’s skate to beat Jaroslav Halak short side. The Canes ended up registering the first eight shots on goal, and the Isles’ first registered shot was a clearance that happened to go straight to Cam Ward. Things continued to look stale through a shotless Islanders power play that began at 4:16.
But the Isles managed to push back and had a healthy stretch of pressure in the middle of the period. Nick Leddy got them on the board by undressing two Canes defenseman at the Carolina blueline, then walking in alone to beat Ward over the shoulder.
The Isles received a second power play, which was a golden chance to equalize. Instead, while it was a little better, they came up short and then Carolina added a goal a couple of minutes later.
Neither Halak nor Ryan Pulock looked good on what began as a three-on-three. Pulock whiffed on his man at the blueline, then didn’t recover to catch up to the goal scorer, a wide-open Elias Lindholm in the high slot. Lindholm was set up well by Phil Di Giuseppe, who froze Halak with a fake shot before crossing to Lindholm.
Halak recovered from the fake shot to slide across his crease...and keep sliding out of the play. He was probably pushing off hard to guard the one-timer, then getting back into standup position to reverse course as the shot went short side. But it looked ugly and didn’t exactly instill confidence in the slumping goalie.
Still, the Isles were outshot 16-6 in the first period. That’s more than a goaltending concern. The only thing more disturbing than the Isles’ first period was the ice, which was Barclays-esque in the number of ridiculously bouncing pucks it created to hamper both teams.
Second Period: Isles’ push turned back by Ward, themselves
The Isles had some golden chances to pull closer throughout the middle frame. They outchanced the Canes by far and had reason to think they should have pulled even, just like Carolina did during the second period of Thursday’s meeting.
But it wasn’t happening. The Isles whiffed on a few, and Ward made great saves on others.
Barzal was intercepted on a sure goal by Ward’s glove. Ladd was robbed in the slot by a more traditional glove save. De Haan undressed the defense twice, the first time failing to create a clear chance thanks to an overwhelming number of options around the net; the second one resulted in a heave from behind the net into Ward’s right pad. Anders Lee hit the post after a cross-ice pass from Bailey gave him room to score.
A power play seven minutes in created more good looks but zero shots. (In fact, despite all that pressure, the Isles were credited with just one official shot through the first nine minutes. That seems...suspicious.)
I swear PNC is undercounting shots tonight because this is some bad defense by Carolina.— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) November 19, 2017
Ward then made more high-danger saves and received some goal line help from his defense, to bring the crowd to its feet at the 10-minute mark. That was part of several high-slot opportunities for the Isles, including Jordan Eberle forcing the extra pass back toward Mathew Barzal. Ward’s stops continued on a late Isles power play that actually did generate shots...
...which was important, because the Hurricanes finally struck next. Halak made a behind-the-back smother to prevent a goal as the puck slid on the line in a sequence that put Nick Leddy in the box with under three minutes to go.
The Hurricanes scored quickly on the ensuing power play, Teravainen rifling a rebound from the end boards in and out off the back crossbar to give the Canes a 4-1 lead. The Isles received one more power play — their sixth of the night — before the end of the period but still entered the intermission trailing by three goals.
Third Period: Cheetah has impala by the throat, completes kill
The third period was unremarkable, outside of a moment where Andrew Ladd had to hurdle Ward as he came out of the net for a 50/50 puck, and a sick Tavares deflection for his 250th goal in his 607th NHL regular season game.
You have two teams at the end of a back-to-back, after each dominated a period with high-octane effort, and one of them holding a three-goal lead, and the rest of the evening is simply a matter of finishing the job.
Not that the Isles nor Hurricanes went through the motions in the third; effort was actually commendable on both sides and official shots were 12-10 for the Isles. But the opportunity to seal two regulation points with a 4-1 lead brought out a more disciplined approach by the Hurricanes, and that can be hard to reverse in 20 minutes even when fresh.
Tavaers’ goal at 13:13 came on the power play and saved that unit the embarrassment of going 0-for-7 on the night, but they never got the next one to make things uncomfortable for the home team.
The Isles next play on Wednesday evening, the day before U.S. Thanksgiving, at home to the Flyers for the start of another three-in-four stretch.