Every game against the Carolina Hurricanes feels like a heart-stopping, high-scoring affair with previously obscure players who quickly become household Isles killers.
In their previous two meetings this season, the scores were 7-4 and 5-4 (OT), both Carolina wins. Last season was almost an anomaly with a 6-3 loss and 4-3 OT win. The 2014-15 season featured three of four meetings with seven or more total goals.
Monday night, in the beginning of a crucial home-and-home series, was no different.
Despite a very strong start for the Isles, goaltending, deflections and the Carolina curse — Jaccob [sic] Slavin had a hat trick — did them in to an ugly 8-4 loss. The Islanders hadn’t given up that many goals in one game since...oh of course, a 9-0 loss to the Canes in 2009.
In their first game back after a marathon nine-game road trip, it was the Islanders’ first regulation loss in 12 home games.
First Period: Results do not reflect data entered
The Islanders dominated play in the first period but netted only one goal to show for it through 14 minutes, on a nice Ryan Strome counterattack goal after Andrew Ladd led the rush when the Hurricanes were caught with three men deep.
Managing just one goal despite a shot disparity cost them. Jaccob Slavin — one of those emerging Isles killers — scored equalized through a Travis Hamonic screen with under six minutes left in the first. Before the Isles could regroup, with the same “new kid” line of Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier and Joshua Ho-Sang still out there, they gave up another to Joakim Nordstrom just 26 seconds later.
That would be a theme for the night.
The Isles got it back under three minutes later, Stephen Gionta banging home the rebound of an alert Cal Clutterbuck stuff attempt. That sent the teams to the first intermission tied 2-2, though not before Calvin de Haan took a painful shot off the foot as time expired.
Second Period: Deja Vu
De Haan recovered to open scoring in the second after the Isles failed to generate a shot on an early power play. The Islanders defenseman glided into the zone and beat Cam Ward high short side from distance, a fitting score on this night of shaky goaltending.
Which brings us to Jean-Francois Berube. The struggling Islanders backup got a vote of “confidence...but” from his coach this morning when he was announced as starter after starting zero games on the Isles’ recent nine-game trip.
At 6:51 of the second, with the Isles collapsing in the zone, Berube gave up a rising wrist shot to Justin Faulk to tie it at 3-3. It may have ramped off of de Haan’s stick, but still.
Then in the Hurricanes’ second double quick-strike of the game, Jeff Skinner had an open shot that simply went through Berube to give the Hurricanes a 4-3 lead. Doug Weight waited as long as possible before the ensuing faceoff to make the call, but he did it: Berube’s night was over.
And you wonder about his place on the roster.
Alas, the goaltending change made no immediate difference for the Isles. Faulk and his sharp wrister struck again, this time beating Thomas Greiss to the opposite high corner on the first shot Greiss faced.
That gave Carolina a 5-3 lead just 56 seconds after Skinner’s go-ahead goal, and Slavin made it 6-3 a couple minutes later after beating Brock Nelson along the boards for a shorthanded goal.
All looked lost, but this is Isles-Canes. Ho-Sang redirected a Beauvillier pass home after the fellow rookie intercepted a breakout pass in the faceoff circle. That made it 6-4, and Ladd nearly made it a one-goal game when he rang a shot off the post through a careful screen.
Instead, the Isles survived a wobbling puck behind Greiss to at least reach the third period down only two goals. The teams combined for 10 goals on 43 shots through 40 minutes.
Third Period: To the grave
But the third period brought no relief. Jeff Skinner put things out of reach after he was stopped but also fouled on a breakaway. On the retry he used an unrestrained series of dekes to beat Greiss.
Slavin had his hat trick on a replay of the Faulk goal that did Berube in: Coming over the blueline, his shot — with a deflection off Hamonic’s stick — slipped through Greiss’ legs. It was Slavin’s fifth goal of the season, with four of them coming against at Barclays Center.
Slavin’s hat trick and Faulk’s pair marked the first time in Hurricanes history that two Whalers/Hurricanes defensemen have had multi-goal games in the same contest.
That's 20 goals in three games for Carolina vs. the #Isles this season and 148 against everybody else in 63 games.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) March 14, 2017
Quote of the Night
“Not exactly a goaltending clinic here.”
>>NBC’s Ray Ferraro, after only half the game’s 12 goals
This one hurt. The Tampa Bay Lightning pulled even with the Isles thanks to a win at Madison Square Garden. The Toronto Maple Leafs have a chance to pull up to three points ahead when they play in Florida tomorrow night.
To stem the damage, the Islanders have a chance for revenge tomorrow night in Raleigh. Can they break the curse?