Two teams scraping to get back into the wild card race came into Barclays Center Saturday night tied at 53 points and playing for the second night in a row.
They left behind their defense, as the Islanders and Hurricanes so often do when they meet. They brought the fun and the offense though. Ron Hainsey’s slap shot at 2:52 of overtime wrapped up a 5-4 Carolina win and ended a back-and-forth night. It was Hainsey’s second goal of the game, fourth of the season, and second OT winner in Brooklyn.
That ending represented one final turn to the story. The Islanders entered overtime with a power play, but failed to muster anything at 4-on-3. Then Tavares’ stick broke on a defensive zone faceoff, leaving him to chase his man with a handicap, and drawing the Isles to leave Hainsey open in support.
As they’ve been doing quite often under Doug Weight, the Isles significantly outshot their opponent, 36-23 through regulation, mainly due to a 11-2 margin in the final period as the Isles looked to erase the 4-3 lead Carolina held after a crazy final minute to the second period.
But again some bad defensive miscues cost the Isles, undid much of their work, and made four goals scored not enough for the second night in a row.
Before that, it was both teams taking turns taking leads, with the first seven goals coming at even strength. Not until Josh Bailey tied it up for the last time, with a rip from the high slot at 8:23 of the third period, did a team convert with the man advantage. (And even that came just three seconds into the power play, as John Tavares and Anders Lee teamed to win the initial faceoff back to Bailey.)
First Period: Trading Chances
The Hurricanes opened scoring midway through the first period after a lengthy, almost comical scrum along the boards freed up Jacob Slavin for an open look. Josh Bailey probably erred in dropping low instead of covering the pass across from the scrum to Slavin, and Thomas Hickey — having his second rough night since coming back from injury — probably erred by passing in front of Jean-Francois Berube just before Slavin unleashed his shot. Hickey was trying to cover an open man down low, but still.
In the first of many double-strike sequences, Anders Lee’s deflection tied the game at 1-1 just over a minute later.
Second Period: Chaos Beginning, Chaos Ending
The Islanders got their only lead of the night early in the second when Casey Cizikas finished a Ryan Strome pass with a highlight diving redirect after Shane Prince’s backcheck enabled the counterattack.
That lead lasted all of 21 seconds.
Hainsey’s first goal of the night tied it at 2-2. Then 1:40 later, the Isles had a sloppy change from the defensemen and Calvin de Haan was stuck scrambling back to cover a 2-on-1. Lee Stempniak need not pass, he simply ripped a shot glove-side over Berube to give the Hurricanes their second lead.
The Islanders pressed for much of the rest of the period, and Hickey was robbed by Cam Ward in tight, followed by the rebound scooting just through Ryan Strome’s reach. But the wave kept coming and just seconds afterward, Brock Nelson sizzled a wrist shot off the far post from atop the right wing faceoff circle to tie it at 3-3.
Got the theme here? That one came with a minute left in the second period, yet the period ended 4-3. With just under two ticks left on the clock, another sloppy scramble in front of the Isles goal let Teuvo Teravainen pop in a rebound for the Canes.
All of which brought some nervousness when the Isles finally tied it again on Bailey’s goal halfway through the third. Indeed, just to protect that tie they had to kill a high-sticking penalty from 14:20-16:20 that was wrongly attributed to Shane Prince (It was actually Nikolay Kulemin’s stick that did the offending, but we’ll take that; Kulemin is a key penalty killer.)
This time, instead of giving up yet another quick strike, the Isles held on to the tie and the regulation point. But by misfiring on the late power play which carried into overtime, they let the Hurricanes grab the other one to jump the Isles by that margin in the standings.
It was at least better than the last meeting where the Isles looked lost in a 7-4 beating, Jack Capuano’s final loss. But once again the Isles got sucked into track meets and the Hurricanes counterattack.
They’ll meet three more times, late in the season. Those could determine who gets the wild card. More likely neither team makes the playoff — and if they did, they wouldn’t face each other — but man, one could stand to see these teams face off in a series. First team to defend wins.
A busy weekend continues into next week as the Maple Leafs visit Monday night. That one’s big too: The Leafs beat Boston 6-5 tonight, pushing them three points ahead of the Isles.