The Carolina Hurricanes overcame three injuries and a 1-0 deficit at the second intermission to shock the New York Islanders, taking Game 2 by a final of 2-1 after two goals in a 48-second span at the start of the third period.
The Hurricanes lost defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, goalie Petr Mrazek — who’d stopped every shot in the series except for a deflection off his own defenseman — and forward Saku Maenalanen over the course of the game. The Islanders lost Cal Clutterbuck, who’s hit was responsible for van Riemsdyk’s injury, late in the third with what looked like lower back issues.
The Islanders had a goal called off (correctly), play whistled down prematurely (debatable) on a great scoring chance, and at least two shots clang off the crossbar behind Carolina backup Curtis McElhinney.
Overall, they appeared unlucky not to at least take this one to overtime if not win it outright. But the result is they are in a big 0-2 hole after losing both games at home, before the series switches to Raleigh, where the Hurricanes are 3-0 thus far in the postseason.
First Period, First Impressions: This sure looks like a long series
The Islanders started off hitting, as you might expect. The Hurricanes answered them check for check. But the first casualty was suffered by Carolina.
When you roll the dice with contact enough, eventually you’ll get a situation like Clutterbuck’s clean check on van Riemsdyk, where the Hurricanes defenseman braced his left arm just so, and it crumpled behind him as Clutterbuck squeezed him into the boards.
In record time, the Hurricanes announced the obvious: that van Riemsdyk would not return thanks to an “upper body” injury.
The narrative will be — and was, on the broadcast — “Oh, the Islanders sent a message early” since the Clutterbuck-TVR hit was on TVR’s first shift. But really it was a normal check that just had the periodically abnormal result. Credit to the Hurricanes for not losing their heads after seeing van Riemsdyk go down and then to the locker room at the first whistle.
Instead, both teams continued to play their game, though the Hurricanes made sure to leave a little extra on their hits when possible. The Isles are certainly aiming to be the more physical team, with the hope that the accumulated mileage hurts Carolina after its seven-game series more than the Isles after their first-round sweep.
But now that they are down 2-0, they’ll need to win four of the next five. Tall but not insurmountable order.
Anyway, just two penalties in the period, with the Islanders doing well to kill off Adam Pelech’s tripping penalty after Jordan Staal made a nice move to get a step on him. That was at 7:13, and Justin Williams got his second minor of the series a few minutes later, which the Islanders leveraged for the only goal of the period.
It started with a good Jordan Eberle pass from the sideboards to Anders Lee in the slot, where he bobbled it but managed to backhand it down low to Mathew Barzal. Barzal had Josh Bailey on the doorstep, but Jaccob Slavin deflected his pass across the crease up and over the shoulder of Petr Mrazek.
So the Islanders’ only goal past Mrazek came from a Hurricane defenseman.
Compared to Game 1, the Isles looked to be doing a better job slowing the Hurricanes’ waves of attack and keeping things a little less eventful. (Shots on goal were 7-3 for the Isles.) Otherwise, it was a pretty even period, with the teams exchanging periods of sustained zone time and shifts lost to failed entries and positional checks before line changes. The Islanders’ best stretch in the “sustained pressure” department was a sequence where Scott Mayfield kept it in, and shot...and kept it in, and shot... and did it some more (and pinched in with Eberle covering) transversing an Isles line change.
Second Period: A huge kill, and down goes Mrazek
The Isles put themselves in trouble to start the period with two early penalties that created a long 5-on-3 for the Hurricanes. Eberle was called at 3:16 for a slash to the hands of Greg McKegg on the forecheck. Just 35 seconds later, Scott Mayfield was called by the back ref for a stickcheck that broke Sebastian Aho’s stick.
But the Isles were poised and gusty on that penalty kill, with some initial good work from Leo Komarov and Justin Williams’ wide shot helped finish the two-man advantage.
A big clear by Thomas Hickey completed the penalty kill, and created a two-on-one for Eberle with Cizikas. Alas, Eberle’s pass eluded Cizikas but it did have another effect: Mrazek leaving the game.
The Hurricanes goalie stretched, and appeared to pull up lame, as he scooted across the crease. The Isles had one more rush and long shot up ice before play was stopped and Mrazek was able to head to the locker room.
You know what that means...emergency backup goalie!
Todd Scarola will serve as the @NHLCanes backup goaltender for the remainder of today’s game.— Hurricanes PR (@CanesPR) April 28, 2019
Scarola played collegiately at Stony Brook University.
[Pretty cool story about Stony Brook alumnus Todd Scarola, who overcame a brain tumor.]
McElhinney was called to duty right away, with the Handsome Valtteri Filppula making some nice moves on a rush from the right wing and forcing a save. He had to stretch again to stop Scott Mayfield after making an initial save on Matt Martin. Mayfield didn’t get enough of the puck, but McElhinney still needed to alertly stretch to keep it from dribbling over the line.
Welcome to the game, Curtis McElhinney pic.twitter.com/Jqcsv5uu66— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) April 28, 2019
Most of the second period’s final five minutes or so was characterized by uncomfortable, lengthy pressure and keep-ins by the Hurricanes. The Isles had one escape rush — led by Komarov, of all people — that set up a dangerous Mayfield (again) chance, but it was gloved by McElhinney.
Then, in the dying seconds...something most of us have never seen before: A goal waived off because a player kicked it from behind the goal line. Devon Toews led a solo rush, got a shot off from the right wing that McElhinney saved, then heeled the puck (with his skate) from behind the net back toward McElhinney, where it scooted in off the goalie’s leg pad.
It felt spiritually unfair, though also correct according to most’s understanding (of the admittedly inconsistent) rules (see rule 49.2), that the call on the ice was “no goal.” The Isles were wise not to challenge.
Still, with all that, you could be forgiven any ominous feelings heading into the third...
Third Period: Yep.
Indeed, if you were worried the Isles’ missed opportunities in the second that might come back to haunt them...Warren Foegele immediately reinforced that.
The Canes rookie took a stretch pass to break down the right wing and beat Lehner to the far post from the right faceoff dot just 17 seconds into the third period. Mayfield was chasing back to angle him off, but he had a good look to tie it at 1-1.
Worse? Ol’ Pandolfo linemate Nino Niederreiter gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead 48 seconds later with a great tip of a Teuvo Teravainen point shot.
This is a sick redirect by Nino pic.twitter.com/aLt0rdncUY— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 28, 2019
It took a bit for the Isles to settle down after that, but at the midpoint they finally saw some prime opportunities to tie it up. Eberle won a forecheck and set up Barzal in front of the net, but Barzal had to wait to turn from his backhand to his forehand, and that gave time for McElhinney to come out and cut off the angle.
Then Dougie Hamilton — and likely, the horrid Barclays Center ice — gave the Isles a break with a “puck over the glass” penalty. But the Isles couldn’t get much going on that power play. Josh Bailey had the best chance, hitting iron as he came in from the left faceoff circle.
Eberle then had a sweet chance after he beat Williams to a loose puck in the slot and hit the crossbar behind McElhinney. With three Canes in the crease Lee’s rebound try also stayed out, and the officials blew the whistle to end any further chance.
All throughout, the ice and its bouncing puck didn’t seem to help efforts, but of course that goes both ways. It just sticks out when you see your team outplaying but not connecting.
After the Isles pulled Lehner for a sixth attacker, Pulock hit the freaking crossbar. The rebound bounced off McElhinney’s back and Lee just narrowly sent his backhand wide, off the side of the frame.
The Islanders were really good working the puck at 6-on-5, but the hockey gods — when they weren’t busy striking down individual Hurricanes with lightning — were not on the Isles’ side today.
The Isles are not playing poorly — they’re playing mostly how they want to be, in fact. Overall, they’ve given the Canes more trouble than they’re used to experiencing, though different lines have been too quiet at times. (So goes the playoffs, against good opposition.)
But this is hockey, the bounces and calls don’t always go your way. Now the margin of error is drastically slim...but drastic changes aren’t needed, especially if Carolina has to ride its backup goalie the rest of the series. Clutterbuck’s injury, if it persists, likely forces a change and perhaps welcomes Michael Dal Colle to the lineup. That could actually help revive the middle two lines.
We’ll see. Two days to stew over this one.
The wounded Hurricanes now get an extra day off, as this series resumes Wednesday in Raleigh.
That one is, obviously, a must-win for the Isles.